When elections begin in two weeks, the AS ballot will contain more to vote on than just candidates. Students will have the chance to vote yes or no on a referendum to raise the student tech fee from $17 to (not exceeding) $25. The fee applies to students taking six or more credits.
The $17 fee was split two ways, with $15 going to a proposal fund, which contributes to tech projects, and $2 to the Student Tech Center. According to AS Vice President for Academic Affairs Andrea Goddard, the Student Tech Center needs more access because it is being utilized more and minimum wage has increased, meaning the STC needs increased funding to pay its employees.
“We need to protect the Student Tech Center,” Goddard said.
The new fee would contribute $3 of every $25 fee paid by students to the Student Tech Center.
The remaining money would go to a computer lab fund ($15), the proposal fund ($6) and be used to expand the wireless networks on campus ($1),.
According to Goddard, allowing $15 to go to a fund for computer labs takes some pressure off the proposal fund. Computer labs would be put on a cycle in which different labs are updated each year, which keeps up with student need, she said.
The student tech fee committee, which is composed of Goddard, AS Vice President for Student Life Ben Wurtz, two student representatives, and faculty members, met during winter quarter to draft a proposal. The committee is student majority-based and student voices were very important in making decisions, Goddard said.
Because of the renewal coming up this year, Goddard also organized the student tech fee task force. Goddard, AS Vice President for Business and Operations Virgilio Cintron and two student representatives researched what the tech fee should cover and what the fee amount should be for the renewal. It is also a student majority-based committee with faculty and staff members on it.
In order to craft the proposal, the task force examined the fee history and spoke to the university about what was appropriate for the fee raise.
“It puts it into context of what it’s supposed to be and what this money’s supposed to do,” Goddard said of looking at institutional history of the fee.
The students on the tech fee committee were members of the Student Senate and the students on the task force were from the Student Tech Center, which enabled them to see the bigger picture, Goddard said.
Because of the economic times, Goddard said she expects some hesitation from students concerning the fee raise. The economy was part of the committee and task force discussions, Goddard said. But she pointed out that the tech fee needs to be periodically increased in order to ensure that Western stays updated and can provide current technology to students. The university doesn’t have the ability to update computer labs and manage the student tech center without the student tech fee, she said.
“The student tech fee is what allows us to have projects,” Goddard said.
Western’s student tech fee is lower than most other Washington State universities, even with the increase, she said.
“There’s a need for technology on campus,” Goddard said. “The student tech fee is vital so things get funded.”