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Thursday, July 15, 2004
Regents finally decide not to delay a vote – "temporary" student fee increase extended
On Wednesday, July 14, a sub-committee of the UC Board of Regents approved a proposal to extend the terms of the UC Berkeley "life-safety fee" that was supposed to expire this year. The $65 add-on to tuition, collected since 1992, will be extended through Spring 2005. It is expected that further extensions will be requested of the Regents in the future.
While retrofitting is necessary for the older Berkeley buildings, and this proposal withstands a cursory glance, there are some major problems with the UCB Safety Fee. Primarily, why is money for retrofitting not coming from county, state, and federal resources dedicated to making older buildings earthquake-resistant? Students should not be shouldering the financial burden for these projects.
I would also be interested in seeing if any other campuses need to pay additional fees for emergency preparedness. For example, I do not believe that UCLA and Cal State Northridge have ever paid additional fees just to bring their campus buildings up to code, and the Los Angeles area is just as prone to earthquakes as the Bay Area is. Likewise, I do not think that UCSB students or Cal State – SLO students pay "life-safety fees", and they just had a pretty big damn earthquake. UC Berkeley students are the only ones financially hindered by this policy.
However, the best part is yet to come. The fee increases have raised $16 million in the last twelve years. However, if only $16 million has been raised, then this only accounts for the fees from an average of ~20500 students per year who have paid the UCB Safety fee. Approximately 33000 students, graduate and undergraduate, attend Berkeley. Where is the other $9.75 million? What most people don't realize is that a good amount of the funds raised by the Safety Fee is sent to financial aid programs. This is blatantly inefficient. It ultimately costs the students more money, and delays the repair timetables. What would happen if there was an earthquake next semester, and students died in buildings without retrofitting because money from the Safety Fee went to financial aid?
And, of the money from the fee going to financial aid, is all of it going back to Berkeley students? If not, this would ultimately mean that Berkeley student fees are paying for other students on different campuses, and a scenario such as this is completely unacceptable.
When it comes down to it, the UC Berkeley Safety Fee is just another example of UC Berkeley students paying for the lapses in judgment of campus administrators and planners.
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