The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday January 19th

The ASG fee referendum will start a much-needed conversation

Andrew Payne was UNC ASG President from 2000-02.

After a decade trial, it’s time for the UNC Board of Governors to consider eliminating the mandatory $1 per student fee to fund the UNC Association of Student Governments. A vote for “yes” on the upcoming question before UNC students would certainly get the conversation started. It’s a discussion that’s desperately needed and long overdue.

It’s hard to imagine voicing those sentiments. When my term ended as ASG president in 2002, I thought the fee was my greatest accomplishment. At the time it felt as if we were paving the way for a “new” student-led advocacy organization ­— it would become the state’s leading and recognizable voice for affordable and accessible higher education.

Not only that, but also it would allow every campus to participate in the process. The old ASG revenue model hinged on dues paid by each university’s student government. Many schools had difficulty paying. Campuses like Western Carolina couldn’t afford the high transportation costs to regularly attend ASG meetings and advocacy activities at the legislature. The discussion was incomplete without every student government at the table, and the collective student voice suffered as a result. The fee was the solution to all our problems.

Obviously the ideal that I held so dearly, and the sales pitch used to convince students around the state and the BOG to approve the fee, did not materialize.

The money didn’t translate into effective programs, systems and operations. Frugality and outspoken leadership of the past was lost. Sadly, most money has gone to salaries, high meeting expenses and a fee to the UNC General Administration bureaucracy to manage ASG’s money. All in the shadows of massive tuition increases and devastating cuts to the UNC system.

What I didn’t realize is that ASG’s effectiveness and success had always been based on the group’s relentless passion. And without that, no amount of money can be thrown at a struggle, especially one that pits students against more powerful and well-funded interests.

Voting yes will not end UNC-CH’s relationship with ASG. Your student government can’t leave the association just like UNC-CH can’t walk away from the UNC system. A positive vote will send a strong message to stakeholders that change is urgently needed. Students want and deserve a powerful advocate. ASG should be that voice — dollar or no dollar.

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