Two dollars — that’s not asking too much, right?
Well, what if you found out that every student pays $2 to fund the Arizona Students’ Association every semester? In a semester, ASA gathers $300,000 from students at ASU, NAU and UA, most of whom don’t realize they’re paying it. ASA is the same organization that fell under intense scrutiny when Tempe Undergraduate Student Government President Mark Naufel, Downtown USG President Joseph Grossman and Polytechnic USG President Jeffrey Hebert left the organization earlier this semester.
The Arizona Board of Regents voted Monday to eradicate students’ $2 funding to ASA for the spring 2013 semester. Coupled with the resignation of three USG presidents and the publicity surrounding it, ABOR’s decision will hopefully conjure a debate regarding unnoticed student fees — the technology fees that accompany some online courses, or the major-specific fees that nick away at students’ checking accounts . Perhaps students will scrutinize their list of charges before hastily clicking the “pay” button. The flaws within ASA have been illuminated and perhaps students — even those who don’t care, or those who find themselves fatigued by the laundry list of ASU charges — will be lending a more attentive ear to University politics.
The measly $2 was used, among other things, to fund Proposition 204, which would have permanently raised the state’s sale tax. Whether one agreed with the tax increase, ASA made a political statement on behalf of Arizona students. It’s the basic slippery slope argument: If students are willing to pay $2 without the blink of an eye, will they be willing to pay $10 (the SRC fee) or $25 (the health services fee) for an organization whose student-advocacy deserves an exhaustive examination?
While it’s nearly impossible to opt out of SRC and health services fees, at least those monetary contributions fund something tangible. Students can’t quantify the effectiveness of ASA’s lobbying, and they can’t always see the “student advocacy” part happening. While students can get regular checkups through student health services or frequent the SRC for a workout, students have no way of telling if ASA’s professional staff has students’ best interests at heart.
Save for student members on ASA’s board, the organization as a whole holds no direct connection with the University. While student members must be re-elected every year, ASA’s adult staff isn’t subjected to the same selection process. As a result, ASA’s professional staff has no direct tie with students’ interests, even though it’s a group that lobbies to ensure “higher education in Arizona is affordable and accessible.”
It might be in students’ interests for USG to absorb ASA. After all, before Naufel, Grossman and Hebert resigned, the student members on ASA’s board have basically been the same people elected by students to campus governments. Because USG members are also students, they understand intimately what it’s like to eat oatmeal for a week; they understand the sad state of affairs that is a $32 checking account balance.
In the end, it should be student organizations like USG that call for greater transparency and oversight — truly an agent of student rights.
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