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USG Leaders Push Fee Hike to Raise Money for Clubs


By Rhiannon Rashidi


On Thursday, February 15, over 100 representatives of City College clubs met online with the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) to discuss club budgets. USG Executive Vice President Aila Choudhary, and Vice President of Finance Khizar Imran, led the meeting and taught student club leaders how to request funds. He also reintroduced the idea of the Club Budget Referendum (CBR) that would raise the student activity fee. 


The proposal would require 10% of the student body to sign the petition for the fee hike to get on the upcoming ballot. If it passes, the clubs will have an additional $170,000 to draw on. Clubs with long legacies and new ones, say they need more money to operate and run events. That’s why the USG wants students to support a $12 fee increase that would boost the fee for full-time students to $76.95.


“This is not an increase in the tuition, it is an increase in the funds that go to clubs,” Khizar Imran, student finance v.p. said. “Out of all the CUNY colleges…, CCNY has the lowest student activity fee.” 


USG President, Asif Sattar agrees. “Funding sources for clubs have dried up and have never been stable enough to meet the number of funding requests from our clubs and organizations on campus,” he said.  “It’s time for City College students and organizations to have the financial empowerment they deserve, and the Club Budget Referendum is the best long-term solution for that.”


The idea of the CBR was first brought up in 2017, and put on the student government election ballot last spring. But it failed because not enough students voted. Only a fraction more than 5% of students voted, and a minimum of 10% was required. 


“Voter turnout was dwindling pre-pandemic and took a complete nose-dive during the interim and post period,” USG President, Asif Sattar, said. “Through hard work and dedication from our administration’s slate and the opposition, voter participation shot up to 5.05%. Not necessarily enough to meet the 10% standard from CUNYCentral, but at least enough [for the CBR] to be put onto the agenda for discussion and potential adoption.”

 

Complicating things even further, only a portion of those who voted, voted on the student fee hike proposal. But student leaders want to try again and hope for a better result. Phong Nguyen, president of the CCNY Esports club said that the referendum should be on the ballot. “Our CCNY Esports Club has been operating virtual since the COVID-19 quarantine times,” Nguyen said. “I think with additional funding from the referendum we can provide the school with a permanent gaming studio open to all students on campus; similar to many other campuses that already have it.”


But some students are unhappy that they are expected to spend more money to receive adequate funding for their clubs. “I signed [the petition] and they said it was to raise funds but never that it’ll be added to our tuition,” Erick Martinez, president of Latin American Engineering Student Association – Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, told Harlem View. “The school is quick to take our money, but slow when it comes to helping students who want to help the school.” 


Students also talked about the difficulty getting money that is already allocated for clubs. They expressed frustration about the lack of money available to clubs, the complicated process of fundraising, and the confusing process of requesting funding.


“Club funding has been really slow,” Martinez said. “By the time we get the money the semester is almost over. 


“I think there is a lot of untapped potential for many clubs at CCNY,” Nguyen said. “However with an extremely tight budget and convoluted processes to get funding, we rarely have multiple large-scale events at CCNY.” 


Representatives of USG say they are doing everything they can to make it easier for clubs to plan events and receive funds. And they are working with club leaders to encourage students to come out to vote, and vote in favor of the fee hike.


“Our team is made up of extremely talented campaigners and student leaders. We’ve spent years learning how this campus works, how to navigate the red tape of CUNY, and how to best service the student body,” Sattar said. “We’re continuing the CBR initiative with what we’ve learned to have the best chance at increasing voter retention and referendum participation, and we’ll continue to try our best to have it succeed.


* This article was also published in Harlem View.


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