By Leigh Roberts | February 6, 2023
A referendum will be held coinciding with student elections to determine whether the $110 per semester Student Activity Fee will be mandatory or voluntary for undergraduate students at the University at Albany. The outcome of this referendum, held every two years, will directly impact how much funding the Student Association receives to put toward campus events.
The mandatory Student Activity Fee, implemented at SUNY schools during the 1970s, exists to fund the groups, programs and activities of the Student Association. A SUNY policy effective since 2004 allows a referendum to be held every two years to determine whether student activity programs are supported by mandatory or voluntary funds. This policy was enacted partly due to First Amendment concerns raised by a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2000 that challenged the authority of a university to charge students for campus activities that conflict with their beliefs. The referendum is held to allow student participation in the spending of university fees.
Senator Jalen Rose of the Student Association, who serves as the Chair of the Committee on Appropriations and as a member of the Board of Finance, anticipates that the Student Association would run into trouble funding campus activities should the Student Activity Fee become voluntary.
UAlbany’s Student Association currently has a $3 million dollar budget that is largely supported by the Student Activity Fee.
“If the Student Activity Fee were to become voluntary, then that would mean that only people who would want to be in student organizations will be willing to pay it, and that number is not a number that the Student Association would be able to fund every student group with,” said Rose in an interview with the ASP.
“There would be no Block Party, there’d be no concerts in the spring or fall semesters from the Student Association,” says Rose. “Campus would just be dead.”
Campus programs, like those listed above, could be slashed should the Student Activity Fee become voluntary
Photo Credit: Leigh Roberts / The ASP
The option to vote mandatory or not will appear on MyInvolvement ballots during student elections, which have historically taken place after Spring Break. Should the Student Activity Fee become voluntary, students will likely have to manually opt out each semester, similar to how students can opt out of the $30 per semester Student-Alumni Partnership Fee.