The state’s Council on Postsecondary Education will vote Friday on a proposed $150 per semester fee to fund a student union renovation and a new recreation and wellness center.

The Council on Postsecondary Education staff “determined that the request meets Council policy requirements” and they recommend for the Council to approve the fee.

“EKU students were afforded ample opportunity to be informed and voice opinions regarding the Student Union and Recreation and Wellness Center projects and proposed fee, prior to a Student Government Association vote,” the special fee request stated. “Fee details were publicized using social media and the EKU Builds Website, and were discussed in an open forum on Feb. 24.”

For a special fee outside of a tuition increase, this is what campus administrators have to demonstrate to the Council:

“All enrolled students have been afforded ample opportunity to be informed, voice their opinions, and participate in the decision to endorse a proposed fee. Specifically, it must be shown that fee details have been widely disseminated, broadly discussed, voted on while school is in session, and requested by students,” according to fee eligibility criteria approved in 2011.

We have issues with how the process was conducted at the university level  and we believe the Council should deny the fee based on the issues provided.

  • There was very little promotion for campus-wide forum February 24 to discuss the fee. SGA President Kyle Nicholas said the lack of promotion was because of a snowstorm the week before that canceled classes.
  • The forum was poorly attended by students because of the lack of notification. A notice of the meeting was included in a campus-wide email that was distributed the same day of the forum. If students don’t have advanced notice of a meeting, it can be tough to attend because of classes and other obligations.  Only an estimated 30 students attended, participated and asked questions for a fee that will be paid by nearly 14,000 students.
  • Part of the discussion at the forum by the executive vice president for student success focused on residence halls and other projects the campus would complete with other funding sources and not from the fee. This may have left students confused, including an error in a survey distributed by a student senator that lumped residence halls into this fee, which the construction of new halls will be completed with funding from Public-Private Partnerships.
  • Even though video of the forum was provided online, the EKU Builds website mentioned in the university request did not provide additional information about the project and the student fee until March 12 and 16, almost two weeks after the $150 per semester student fee was approved by the Student Senate. The additional information said students attending full-time during a summer session would also have to pay the fee, something that was not known when students voted on the fee.
  • The day before the vote, Student Senator Sebastian Torres, addressed the Student Activities Council about the fee and talked about parking lots, issues with academic buildings and other concerns by students. However the only two things the fee can fund are renovations to the student union and a new wellness center.
  • During discussion about the fee at the Student Senate meeting, some senators publicly stated they were having conversations with students and that everyone they talked to supported this fee, however, SGA could have done more, such as setting up a table on Powell Corner and interviewing students as they walked by the student union slated to receive the renovation as several students we talked to did not know about the fee.
  • Students didn’t know who to contact to voice their concerns about issues such as this fee. A list of senators was not available when a Progress editor visited the SGA office and had to contact one of the Senate chairs for a list of senators and email addresses.
  • The legislation passed by Student Senate and the Board of Regents doesn’t mention the narrowly-tailored description of renovations to the student union and the wellness center, but describe the fee as funding “student centric facilities.”
  • In the Faculty Senate minutes for Sept. 8, 2014, President Benson said the university would propose a $75-per-semester fee for necessary campus improvements that would be voted on by students during the SGA elections in the spring of 2015. This initial proposal is very different than the one that was presented to the Student Senate and approved.

We believe that if the CPE approves this fee, this is evidence that either the Council or the state legislature should change the process of voting on special use fee exemptions and that referendums voted on by the student body should be the only way to pass a fee to ensure students are provided correct information and are accurately represented. This new process would force the two parties to be more accountable, in the students seeking information and the university in releasing information.