As some readers no doubt know, USG voted unanimously to increase student fees to $100 during Monday’s joint operating meeting. The fee increase passed despite a unanimous no vote from the smaller GSG delegation. This extremely unusual split highlights how out of touch and self interested USG has become.
The split developed in the wake of USG’s budget “shortfall”. USG decided that it did not have enough revenue to support all of its initiatives and clubs. USG then proposed an arbitrary increase to a round number without earmarking any recipients for the money. GSG was given the proposal in advance of the joint operating meeting and reviewed it. GSG – which is not inherently opposed to spending money – found the proposed increase to be completely unacceptable due to the lack of justifications. USG provided no hard analysis of why it did not have enough money or where the additional money would go. GSG asked USG for clarification, was promised additional information, and received nothing of substance before or during the joint operating meeting.
Instead, USG only answered in generalities. No one would say precisely what groups would get the extra money or what it would be used for. Excellent suggestions that would serve much of the student body, such as a better E-Days and Oredigger support, came forth. But there were no hard numbers to be found and clubs were mentioned as the likely recipients of anything not used for its original purpose. From the given information, it was not clear where the money would go or exactly why it was needed.
That is why GSG did their duty to their constituents and the student body and unanimously voted against increasing student fees without proper justification. The only novel thing about the GSG vote is that a campus organization tried to turn down more money because it didn’t need more and was not convinced that the extra money would better serve students (GSG gets most of the graduate student fees). USG ignored this opposition and passed the increase anyway.
The real question is why USG proposed and unanimously passed a fee increase that the entire GSG thought was unjustified. The answer is the self interests of the members. Despite the justification put forth by USG members that 90% of Mines students are involved in clubs, the participation and benefit levels vary significantly. The benefits to the heaviest club users far outweigh the cost of student fees while average and uninvolved students are getting less out of clubs than they pay into student fees. What is happening is the active and connected minority are significantly benefiting from the exercise of their power to tax the majority.
During the deliberation, USG made it clear that they do not consider the uninvolved students to be their constituents. When USG was asked if the fee increase benefited the less involved, a USG representative said it was their problem for not being involved. When GSG suggested that student government must consider all the stakeholders – even the uninvolved – some of the USG representatives were visibly chuckling. This is not the language of a governing body that is doing its best to serve all its stakeholders. This is government by the active for the active.