Fee board votes to increase technology fee; postpone athletics fee vote

(Matthew Halton | The Utah Statesman)

The Utah State University Fee Board met again Wednesday to vote on the proposed fee adjustments it heard two weeks ago and hear a modified proposal from the athletics department.

The proposals included a request for an $8* student fee increase for athletics, a $3.11 increase for computer labs, and a reclassification of the Utah Statesman fee, which is embedded within the activity fee.

At the board’s previous meeting on Jan. 10, the university’s vice president and director of athletics John Hartwell proposed that of the $297,000 generated by an $8 increase, $120,000 would be used to purchase a promotion application, Fanmaker. Of that $120,000, $85,000 was slated to go directly toward student promotions. An additional $105,000 was allocated to cover the estimated cost of switching to an e-ticketing system, and $72,000 would be used for general operations costs.

At the time, members of the fee board expressed surprise at the similarity of Hartwell’s proposal to the one he’d given at the board’s 2017 meeting — a proposal they had rejected.

James Morales, the university’s vice president for student affairs, said the executive extension of the fee board — which includes faculty and administration — was similarly surprised.

“The committee said they would like to see athletics come back and revise their request to move in a direction that would be more helpful,” Morales said.

A modified proposal, presented Wednesday by the athletic department’s director of external affairs Coleman Barnes, said the department would allocate the entire $297,000 to general athletics uses.

These general uses, Barnes said, would include scholarships, travel, guarantees, recruiting, equipment, game expenses and medical expenses, all of which Barnes said have become more costly since the last athletics fee increase implemented in 2014.

After some discussion, the board voted to have an additional meeting next Wednesday to vote on the athletics fee, citing discomfort at the prospect of voting on a proposal they’d just been presented without time to do research and talk to their respective councils and constituents.

“I’m uncomfortable not with the increase itself, but with the timing,” said Caine College of the Arts Senator Sierra Wise. “I’m not sure that I’m comfortable voting yes on something entirely different.”

Votes on proposals to reclassify the Utah Statesman portion of the activity fee and for an increase of $3.11 for the computer lab fee were still conducted.

The board voted 22 to one in favor of reclassifying of the Utah Statesman fee, which will now be called the “student media fee.”

It also voted to increase the computer lab fee by $3.11.

In previous discussion of the proposed increase to the computer lab fee, board members had expressed concern that a portion of the money from the fee increase would be used for an anticipated state-wide 2 percent raise for salaried university employees.

Morales said he, along with College of Engineering Senator Erik Olson, looked into the history of the computer fee “as far back as records go” and found that “there is a line in the original statement that talks about supporting staff salaries.”

A document outlining the use and structure of the student computer fee written in the 1990-91 school year stated the fee was intended to “provide needed services to all students regardless of major discipline.” Uses for the computer fee were listed as “…to purchase and maintain equipment and software…” as well as “…to pay wages for lab supervisors and monitors…”

This appeared to alleviate the concerns of most board members.

“If it was in the original fee description, I don’t think there’s very much we can argue,” said USUSA student advocate vice president Bridget Brown.

It was also proposed that the board vote to reclassify the computer lab fee, something Olson said he, along with computer lab manager Gary Egbert, found necessary after research into the fee’s history.

Olson proposed the fee no longer be called the “computer lab fee” and instead be called the “technology fee,” a name Olson said would be “more encompassing and be more in line with how it’s being used.

The board voted in favor of this reclassification.

More information, including a breakdown of student fees, is available on the USU website.

 

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*Fee estimates are based on costs for a student taking 12-18 credits.