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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Campus fees belong in the hands of students, not AZ Legislature

    Students should have a voice on campus and on issues that affect them. It’s a simple concept, but it’s under threat with the passing of House Bill 2169.

    The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), would prevent Arizona universities from collecting student fees for groups that aren’t recognized as student organizations.

    The bill would essentially eliminate the Arizona Students’ Association, a statewide student lobbying group that “works to make sure that higher education in Arizona is affordable and accessible,” according to its website.

    ASA is funded entirely through a $2 per-student, per-semester tuition fee from state universities.

    The organization first came under fire last fall, when it donated more than $100,000 to the campaign for Proposition 204, which would have extended a one-cent sales tax to fund education had it passed in November 2012.

    Since then, ASA has faced increased scrutiny by students, the Arizona Board of Regents, and now the state Legislature.

    Kavanagh called the donation to Proposition 204 an abuse of student fees. In an earlier interview with the Arizona Daily Wildcat, Kavanagh said that he sponsored the bill to “prevent people like this student group from abusing” it.

    But what exactly qualifies as an abuse of student fee money? You wouldn’t normally think that a student group that lobbies on behalf of education is misusing its budget by supporting a proposition to make education more affordable, right?

    ASA isn’t a perfect institution and students deserve a say in what their fee money is used for. But that doesn’t mean that ASA should be defunded, especially through a decision by the state Legislature.

    In 1997 and again in 2008, students voted by a referendum for a student fee to be collected on behalf of ASA. The fee was then approved by the Arizona Board of Regents. Both the students and the regents supported the use of student fees for lobbying purposes.

    HB 2169 completely disregards the process in which fees are approved or rejected by students and regents and instead leaves decisions to be made by the state government.

    The referendum process enables students to actually have a say about where their money goes. In removing the student voice from the issue, the Legislature is hurting students.

    If there is a legitimate question of whether or not students want to continue paying a student fee to support ASA, then that question should be raised through the referendum process. If both the students and regents support overturning the fee, then the fee should be overturned.

    But it shouldn’t be up to Kavanagh to decide what’s an abuse of student fees. It shouldn’t be up to the House to pass a bill that would defund ASA.

    If a student lobbying group is abusing the money that it gets from students, then it should be disbanded by the students. But students don’t need the Arizona Legislature sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong.

    — Dan Desrochers is the opinions editor. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @drdesrochers.

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