USGT and Council of Presidents at odds on Barrett fee increase

The recently approved fee increase received support from the Council of Presidents and criticism from USG

Earlier this spring, Barrett students at ASU were faced with the news that their honors college was proposing a fee increase of $250 per semester. 

At the time, Barrett, the Honors College held a series of informational sessions with students to discuss what the fee would be used for and the history of honors college fee increases. But despite those sessions, students still responded to the increase with criticism and calls for increased transparency from the administration. 

To represent the outcry from the student body, Undergraduate School Government Tempe passed two resolutions — Senate Resolution 8 and Senate Resolution 10 — opposing the communication surrounding the fee increase, saying that students hadn't been given enough opportunity to weigh in on the fee increase before the proposal was submitted to the Arizona Board of Regents

Read more: Barrett students respond to proposed fee increase with criticism, calls for transparency

But amid the debates over whether or not Barrett properly rolled out the fee increase, the measures passed by USGT and a letter that the Associated Students of ASU's Council of Presidents issued in late March have found themselves at odds with each other.

The Council of Presidents, comprised of the USG presidents from all four ASU campuses and the president of the Graduate and Professional Students Association, holds weekly meetings to work on University-wide matters.

In the letter, the Council of Presidents acknowledged that students had valid concerns about the fee increase, and that going forward, "there are fundamental changes that must be made" regarding informing the student body about similar matters.

The council members also said that they would "offer support for the fee increase, contingent on crucial changes to the Barrett experience based on the student concerns" they observed. The contingencies included making an increased effort to hire teaching faculty of color in Barrett, boosting marketing efforts for community grants and changing the thesis funding model.

Although the council is comprised of USG presidents, their support of the fee increase received criticisms from other USG senators, who said that the differing stances of the two groups was confusing.

Read more: USGT passes resolution opposing Barrett's handling of fee increase

Alyson Perkins, the president of USG Downtown and a senior studying public service and public policy, said in an email that the Council of Presidents went against USGT's resolution because they need to take into consideration students on all campuses.

Perkins said while she "can understand why Barrett Tempe does not feel like they need any more resources," Barrett students on the other campuses can benefit from the fee increase because they currently lack amenities, such as dedicated classrooms for honors classes.

But Nicole Morote, the Barrett senator for USGT and a sophomore studying marketing, said the discrepancy between the two groups has left students, herself included, confused.

"My confusion was in knowing why they had made that decision," Morote said. "Because I had done outreach on hundreds of students, we had figured out that students were overwhelmingly opposed, and it didn't really seem like that was taken into account."

She said she is against the fee increase because it was not properly communicated to students, adding that no one from the Council of Presidents asked her for the results of the survey before making their decision. 

Maya Morken, a Barrett freshman studying finance, said that she does not think the council did their job by apparently contradicting the resolution passed by USGT.

"That resolution passed, with my understanding, with a lot of support (from the other senators) against the Barrett fee increase," Morken said. "For the Council of Presidents to turn around and directly support this increase, it feels like they are breaking from their obligation to stay loyal to the constituents that they represent."

She also said that she isn't opposed to the fee increasing, but she does not like how much the increase is — the fee will increase by 33%, coming to a total fee of $1,000 per semester.

Read more: ABOR passes tuition, fee increase for Arizona Universities

Perkins said that the council members came up with their list of requests based on feedback from Barrett students.

"We went to all the forums, paid close attention to social media, issued surveys and had honest conversations about the overall Barrett experience," Perkins said. "We will continue to ask questions, watch closely for the requested changes and put pressure on the administration to follow through with our requests."

Morote said the conditions proposed by the council did not change her stance on the fee increase. She said though many of the demands were "very fair requests to make to Barrett," she was concerned that the requests were not made with the voices of the students in mind.

After taking another look at the council's contingencies, Morken said that she was unsure how qualitative demands, such as increased marketing efforts, would justify a significant increase. 

"Not a single one of these things, individually or in my mind added together, would justify a 33% increase," she said.

But at the end of the day, Morken said that if more information is made available to all students about the fee increase, there would possibly be more agreement among students on the issue.

"We're all students," she said. "That's the one thing that unifies us." 


Reach the reporter at mzhao49@asu.edu and follow @michelle_zhao23 on Twitter. 

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