Student Senate voted against lowering the co-curricular fee, which provides its budget, during its meeting March 5.
The Student Senate fees committee proposed lowering the co-curricular fee from $0.50 per credit hour to $0.40 per credit hour during the Feb. 19 meeting.
If the fee was decreased, students taking 15 credit hours would save $1.50 per semester.
The fee change failed with six votes in favor, 32 votes against and one abstaining.
The fee originally passed in fall of 2017. Student Senate had $30,000 leftover from its 2017-18 budget, which prompted the fees committee to propose lowering the fee.
With the leftover budget from last year, $15,000 was used to re-carpet and paint the J. W. Jones Student Union, $3,356.29 to improve the International Flag Plaza and $300 to furnish the on-campus prayer and meditation rooms.
Lowering the fee by $0.10 would have reduced the Student Senate budget by around $15,000.
When lowering the fee was first proposed, most discussion was in favor. On-Campus Representative Madi Cobb said that when she was the student affairs chair last school year, she felt pressure to spend all of the ample budget.
“Sometimes I felt I was blowing money just to spend it,” Cobb said.
Student Senate President Alyssa Lincoln wrapped up the Feb. 19 discussion by pointing out that the increased budget has brought six new organizations to Student Senate with appropriation requests this school year and allowed Student Senate to amend appropriations to higher amounts.
Student Senate discussed the issue again the following week, but the conversation shifted negatively toward changing the fee.
Cabinet members including Lincoln and Treasurer Colton Downing said that with the future of higher education funding being uncertain, Student Senate has the ability to improve campus in ways that may not be in the University budget.
When Vice President of Student Affairs Matt Baker presented the University budget to Student Senate, he indicated a section of auxiliary spending that goes toward paying off the $5 million auxiliary debt. Between the Missouri Legislature providing no funds for academic building maintenance and paying off the debt, there are no improvement plans for academic buildings which are in need of renovation.
Junior Class President Luke Bohn said Student Senate is not Facility Services and should not shoulder the burden of improving campus.
“Student Senate is not responsible for updating buildings,” Bohn said. “We’re responsible for giving money back to students, and right now we’re not doing that.”
SAC Representative Drake Summers suggested new ways that Student Senate could use some of its budget, including providing legal counsel for students, providing grants and paying to have national news publications available on campus, all of which the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Student Senate provides.
“There are ways we could spend our money more effectively,” Summers said. “But decreasing the budget limits our ability to grow and evolve as an organization.”
International Representative Abha Niraula said since students could name multiple ways the extra money could be used productively, Student Senate should consider restructuring the budget rather than decreasing it.
“There’s a lot we can do with $15,000,” Niraula said. “And if that money goes back to the students, there’s not a lot they can do with it.”
Niraula said one accessibility feature the University lacks is gender neutral bathrooms in academic buildings, which she said Student Senate could help provide.
At the March 5 meeting, the floor was opened for discussion, but no comments were made, and the floor was closed. Before closing the meeting, Lincoln reflected on the vote and emphasized that the decision will impact the 97th Student Senate’s approach to the budget next year.
“It’s a profound call to action for next year’s Student Senate,” Lincoln said.