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Monday, July 13, 2020

AS meeting discusses new fees

Students who rent space and kayaks from Western’s Lakewood location on Lake Whatcom will soon be paying more. Fees for renting event space on campus are also set to rise beginning fall 2015.

The fees were approved at the Associated Students board of directors meeting on Wednesday, May 13, but will only apply to students who specifically rent watercraft from Lakewood or wish to rent space in the Viking Union for a club.

Fees for event services have been raised from $13 per hour to $14 per hour and watercraft rentals were raised from $3 to $6 per four hours of use. These fees have not been raised for 10 years. The Lakewood fees are estimated to increase revenue by $16,000. The AS expects about $8,000 in revenue from students renting space, according to the Viking Union Budget and Fee proposal.

The increase in revenue is intended to remedy wage compression and an increase in the cost of living for current Viking Union student employees, according to the Viking Union Budget and Fee proposal.

The motion was heavily debated, as board members said they also understood how increased fees would affect students.

“This fee raise would bring tangible benefits to students in the long run,” Chelsea Ghant, vice president for business and operations said. “I wrestle with it, too. There are a lot of benefits to these figures and compared to other places around Bellingham, these prices are really reasonable.”

A separate motion was also raised to approve a mandatory student building fee of $2.50 per quarter for a remodel of the VU starting summer 2016. However the motion was not passed.

“After hearing student reactions and responses to [mandatory fee increases], it didn’t feel right to be able to vote yes on it,” Sarah Kohout, VP of Governmental Affairs said. “I had talked to 5-10 students who said they were really opposed to fees, but these are just the students that have the knowledge that they are being raised.”

Junior Nathan McCready is one of those students who opposes fee increases.

“School is expensive enough as it is,” McCready said, regarding the increases. “They are just tacking on fees for stuff that a lot of students really don’t use.”

The renovations would have included expanding the Ethnic Student Center and making more space for the clubs that are part of the center. The fee increase would have been added to the current non-academic building fee of $39 per student per quarter.

“The conversation of expansion or relocation has always been in the works,” Nate Panelo, coordinator of the Ethnic Student Center, said. “We are seeing an increase of students of color coming to campus, we are also seeing a trend of our student services increasing as well.”

Many students are unaware that fees are being raised or that they have a say in choices that are made on their behalf by the AS Board, AS president Annika Wolters said.

“I’m really happy with the critical conversation we had around the fee increases,” Wolters said. “In the past, this board has voted to increase fees with a pretty wide margin, and now that students are coming forward and asking us ‘why are you voting for fee increases?’ I am glad to see more of us questioning the votes we are making and additionally listening to the feedback we’re getting from students.”

The AS Board has rejected mandatory student fees this week, but Western’s board of trustees may still choose to implement the decisions.

“Seven dollars and fifty cents might not seem like a lot to all students, but to some students, it might be the difference between them staying another quarter or dropping out,” Kohout said. “Especially for raising fees across the board, I think it could really make a difference in how many students are attending Western and the accessibility for students.”

The AS Board meets every Wednesday at 7 p.m. and all meetings are open to the public.

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