A referendum is slated to be added to the AS elections ballot concerning whether funding for the Washington Student Lobby (WSL) fee  should be changed to give Western students the responsibility of spending the extra money.
The WSL is an organization made up of eight different Washington State universities, including Washington State University, the University of Washington, Central Washington University and other secondary institutions in the state. Western’s chapter is supported solely by donations from the AS, collected during quarterly class registration.
Membership with the WSL lets students from schools across the state have their say on school budgeting, financial aid and other important policy decisions made in Olympia. Each school must contribute a minimum of $9,000 per year to remain a full-time member of the WSL. Generally, Western students dedicate more than the necessary fee for membership in the WSL, leaving excess money that the WSL uses later.
“This way, with the AS controlling the funding, we can set up a system for continued success with the WSL and the AS,” AS President Erik Lowe said. “Western students know what’s best for other Western students.”
Rather than leaving the overage amount to the WSL, Lowe would like to form an entity within the AS to handle the specific budgeting and management of students’ quarterly donations. Instead of all of the overage pay going to the WSL, the student-run task force would determine to what extent extra funds would be allocated.
“There are a lot of things we can do with the money by saving the dues that aren’t being paid to the WSL,” Lowe said. “In my opinion, we have access to a more cost-effective advocacy model.”
If students could manage the money left over from membership fees to the WSL, they could decide what kind of activities to use the funding for, Lowe said. These activities could include more student participation in Student Lobby Day, or a second legislative liaison could possibly be added to monitor legislation that affects the AS.
Currently, the WSL fee is in the form of a donation that students can opt to participate in during each quarter registration. Right now the requested donation is $2, which Lowe assured would not immediately become mandatory.
Following last year’s decision, Western has not signed a contract with the WSL for the 2008-2009 school year. According to Lowe, the AS chose not to establish a formal agreement with the WSL because they felt Western students were paying proportionally more than students from other Washington schools. Last year, the AS board also chose not to approve a contract with the WSL because they were already busy updating the fee-paying process for all Western students. The end result of that restructuring was the current online pay initiative that most Western students use.
“We didn’t want to sign a contract that would be irrelevant in a week,” Lowe said.
The referendum, if passed, would form a committee similar to the one that manages the AS budget, although the WSL committee would strictly handle student donations toward the WSL. Although the money donated to the WSL supports political advocacy, Lowe hopes that students will want to pay $2 for representation in the state legislature. He also believes that the WSL can help bring together students from across the state to support student issues.
“If we [the WSL] have a united front when it comes to tuition and student fees, it becomes more of an advantage for Western students,” Lowe said. “Rather than a couple thousand students sending a message to the state, it could easily be 100,000 or more. The students have more power that way.”