Salo: Students should get a say in Memorial Union fee


The sun shines on the Memorial Union after a thunderstorm Wednesday afternoon on Nov. 11, 2015. 

Megan Salo

Last year, students voted against a referendum that proposed to increase student fees by $72 over the course of two years to total $99.55 per semester.

Despite the fact that students voted to not increase fees, Student Government voted at Wednesday night’s meeting that they would support a $15 increase per semester in order to pay for infrastructural issues in the Memorial Union. The fee will not be applied until Fall 2018 and would only be implemented if President Ben Allen and the Board of Regents approve. 

After listening in on the debate that ultimately led to the decision, I have a split opinion: the fee increase is a change that we need in order to keep the Memorial Union running, but student opinions should have had a larger influence in the decision. 

Corey Williamson, the associate director of the Memorial Union, shared at the meeting that the additional $15 fee would be used to fix important maintenance issues, such as plumbing and other renovations on the fourth through sixth floors. 

During the meeting, Associate Dean of Students Keith Robinder also stated that this maintenance is going to happen, but it was up to students to decide where the money came from – their tuition fees or from taking funds from other programs on campus. 

Personally, I would prefer to pay a small increase in fees in order to keep the Memorial Union running instead of getting rid of one of the great programs at Iowa State. But last year I didn’t know that other programs were at risk when I voted against it, and I’m not sure other students knew either. 

Although this new fee is drastically reduced from last year’s proposed amount, students still didn’t show support for an increase, according to some of the senators who spoke with their constituents prior to the meeting. 

Last year, students were able to easily and decisively vote for or against the fee when they participated in Student Government elections. Nearly 70 percent of students voted to not raise the fees. 

But this year, the decision to support the increase doesn’t seem to be up to students who are not involved in Student Government. 

This was a hard decision for Student Government which could be seen from the in-depth and lengthy debate. I can’t say that they reached the right or wrong decision, but I can say that if Student Government is going to represent the students, then student input should be a larger factor in making decisions and there should be more focus on educating students on issues that will directly impact every student.