Press Release: IFC fee autonomy is a win for student voices

President Johnson outlines IFC’s success against obstruction and clears up misinformation about the Incidental Fee

NJ Johnson | ASWOU President

Dear Campus Community,

The ASWOU Incidental Fee Committee will be charging a flat student incidental fee of $150 for winter term to all WOU students and President Fuller has confirmed that this will be collected by the University. This fee funds vital resources and programming such as the food pantry, student government, multicultural groups, and activities-based clubs which, during this pandemic, remain just as essential to the success and well-being of WOU students as ever.

I would like to thank the hundreds of students who took part by giving feedback in this process. While our campus community is a vibrant and diverse group of individuals with different perspectives, the overwhelming sentiment we heard was that students wanted us to protect funding for student jobs, access to the food pantry, multicultural groups and resource centers, student government, and activity-based clubs.

Just as they did earlier this year regarding Fall term’s incidental fee, President Fuller and his office attempted to obstruct this student led, democratic process this term. We filed an appeal with the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and soon after, Administration officially recognized ASWOU’s fee autonomy regarding our right to fund these student led programs and resources. Amidst a host of other attacks on the rights of our faculty, staff, and students coming from President Fuller, this acknowledgement of the student voice is a huge win for this year.

Given some of the false information that President Fuller’s staff has been directed to spread to students, we wanted to provide some factual context regarding the student incidental fee.  First, this fee is less than the original fee that the vast majority of students would have paid were it not for social distance learning.

Second, while administration has targeted graduate students with the false assertion that this is a change to the structure of fees that Graduate students pay, the fact is that there is no change to whether graduate students take part in paying the incidental fee and are able to benefit from these paces and services it provides. Graduate students are often exploited by administration both as students and as workers, we acknowledge this unique circumstance and reiterate that we as ASWOU are here to fight for your rights and interests.

Third, this fee is the only amount of money you pay into WOU that students have democratic control over. We share the student body’s concerns regarding the cost of tuition and fees at WOU; a large amount of the work ASWOU does is in advancing legislative initiatives to combat the cost of attendance at WOU. Because of our commitment to fighting to keep the cost of attendance at WOU down, we have directed the Oregon Student Association to introduce legislation which will increase transparency and regulation around all fees that students pay, both the incidental fee and the large host of other fees which students currently have no democratic control over.

We encourage students to get involved in the incidental fee process in the upcoming terms through attending our hearings, filling out the survey forms we send out, and contacting ASWOU officials, whose email addresses can be found here. Information and updates can be found on ASWOU social media and wou.edu/ifc. We also ask students interested in more transparency around the large amount of fees charged to students at WOU to get involved this winter in working to pass state-level legislation which would better regulate student fees at public universities and colleges in Oregon. If you would like to be involved in the statewide student effort to pass legislation which regulates student fees, please contact Oregon Student Association at andrew@orstudents.org for info on how to do so.

Make no mistake that more work lies ahead to protect the legal autonomy students must retain in the process of assessing and distributing incidental fees. The overwhelming majority of students have expressed to us the importance of protecting the areas funded by the incidental fee and the rights students hold over this process. ASWOU will continue to ensure that students are kept updated on these matters and encourage every student to engage in the process for Spring 2021 and the 2021-22 academic year. Remember that when students are heard, students win.

For more information, contact ASWOU President NJ Johnson by emailing at aswoupresident@mail.wou.edu or by phone at (503) 838-8555

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