By Sohrab Ghassemi
A letter, along with a bill, will be sent out to all full-time university students shortly.
It comes from the Office of Student Affairs and begins:
“Dear Georgetown Parents and Students, this fall Georgetown University is instituting a student activities fee. This fee, proposed by the Georgetown University Student Association and approved by the Board of Directors as well as by a student referendum, is specifically meant to support student-run activities … The fee, assessed for every full-time undergraduate, will be $25 per semester for the 2001 to 2002 academic year, increasing by 2003 to 2004 to a maximum of $50 per semester.”
This comes as a surprise to me. More of a surprise, prior to having a copy of the letter myself, was when I checked my Student Account last Friday and saw a new $25 charge. I went to the Student Accounts office and was assured that I would have to pay this fee. Everyone would have to. So, reluctantly, I dished out all but the remaining $2 from my wallet. There goes my next two (maybe three) dinners, I thought. Oh well, I guess it is for a good cause: Student Activities!
But then I thought again. And my mind started to melt a little. And then my spirit was affected, too. By paying $25? No. I was affected by thoughts of where my money will actually go. Will the money, as is the case with university funding in general, only go to university-sponsored student clubs and organizations? Does that mean that, for example, H*yas for Choice will not get any part of the money from the student activities fee? If this is true, then I am upset by having to pay another $25 to Georgetown University. My money may never reach the student activities for which I actually have some sort of an affinity.
That same money may only go for organizations, having the official approval for university funding, that stand against my own beliefs and values. I would, in effect, be paying for the enhancement and support of views that are not my own. For me, the student activities fee is not a financial concern, but a moral one.
None of this is new, though. Three students brought suit against the Regents of the Univeristy Wisconsin, claiming that they had a constitutional right grounded in their freedom of speech and expression to keep their money away from groups they disagreed with. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, who ruled unaminously against the students. However, the legal resolution of this issue does not in an y way take away from its moral significance. The students in the case still were forced to fund groups they disagreed with, in their case those supporting gay and women’s rights and environmental causes.
I would be delighted if my money went to support these groups. Some of my money will also go to support more conservative organizations, though. A balance would seem to be struck. The release of a report to the Georgetown student community detailing what all this money was eventually used for – and to whom and what it went to – would allow for further debate regarding these issues. In an ideal situation, the money would be distributed without taking into count what the group receiving the money represents, but this cannot be the case with a club that is not officially reconized by Georgetown University. These clubs would be in no position to receive any sort of university money, including the new student activities fee. So, once the $25 a student is collected and ready to be distributed, there exists a clear discrimination against the student activities that the university frowns upon, such as H*yas for Choice.