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Letter: Student fee increase will deliver benefit for students

With the upcoming referendum on the student activities fee increase for Duke Student Government, I'd like to take this chance to clarify what the student activities fee is, where the money is spent and what the additional money will go toward funding if the referendum passes.

Each undergraduate currently pays an activities fee of $128, $72 of which is managed by the funding branch of DSG - the Student Organizational Finance Committee. These monies, approximately $432,000 in total this year, are distributed to over 200 chartered and recognized groups on campus to help fund programming and the yearly financial needs of these groups.

The groups range in interest from cultural to performing arts to religion to publications to sports clubs to politics and include groups like Asian Students Association, Black Student Alliance, the Community Service Center, the Publications Board, Hoof n' Horn, the Sports Club Council, Duke Conservative Union and many more. In total, the SOFC distributes over $400,000 to campus groups in the annual budgeting process and anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000 for club programs throughout the year. (As an aside, the programming fund still has over $20,000, and I'd encourage any recognized and chartered groups to apply for money for programs that will be taking place this semester. Forms are in the DSG office, and requests should be submitted 10 days before the event).

Nonetheless, because of limited available funds, SOFC cannot meet all requests. In the annual budgeting process last year, SOFC received requests for over $1 million, but could only cover approximately 40 percent of these needs. An increase in the DSG portion of the student activities fee would help SOFC fill this funding gap and increase financial support for programming in the face of rising honorariums and technical service costs.

While the SOFC is constantly being perfected in order to best meet the student demands, our guiding aim has been and continues to be to serve campus clubs and organizations, and I would be honored by student input on how to better serve this goal. An increase in the DSG portion of the student activities fee would help SOFC to contribute larger amounts to meet more student group financial needs - hopefully another step in the right direction.

In regards to the Duke University Union's proposed fee increase, I wholeheartedly believe that the Union has been an effective, vibrant programming presence on campus. They have long been a strong arts presence here, and a fee increase will strengthen their ability to bring more top-notch speakers and performers to Duke.

I'd like to make one point clear regarding the fee increase. Next year, tuition will increase by 4.9 percent. The increase in the student activities fee that we're proposing would not be added to tuition beyond this percentage increase; rather, the money we're asking for would be included in that percentage increase in tuition. In essence, DSG and the Union are asking for a total of $39 of the increase in tuition to be allocated toward student programming.

In the referendum vote on March 4 for an increase in the student activities fee, I only ask that you recognize that the fee goes toward just that - student activities - and that over 200 groups could benefit from the $120,000 in extra funds that would become available for speakers and programming if the increase is approved.

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