c IFC update – The Western Howl
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IFC and ASWOU Senate finalize budgetary plans for next school year

IFC plans for 2021 to be approved by the Board of Trustees

Sydney Carpenter | News Editor

The Incidental Fee Committee has concluded its open hearings and finalized the budgetary allocations and fee application for the next school year.

In their preliminary decisions, the IFC had a total of 34.77% budget reductions for all 15 of the funded areas, and 27% of the reduction was taken from the Athletics department’s funding. However, 100 students ⏤ primarily athletes ⏤ attended the open hearings advocating for a reduction on the Athletics budget cut. 

In the final plans, budgetary reductions for Athletics was reduced and some of the weight was spread into other departments. In the finalization meeting, department heads voiced they were willing to have greater reductions to their own personal budgets. In total, six areas volunteered to have budgetary reductions: Associated Students of Western Oregon University with 2%; Campus Recreation 0.5%; Creative Arts 3%; Student Engagement 1%; SE: Leadership, Inclusion, Activities 2%; Student Activities Board 1%; Student Media 0.5%.

Because other departments took on the burden of reducing their budgets, the Athletics department budget currently only reflects a 13.5% cut. Athletic Director Randi Lydum has not put in writing what types of cuts the department will face under this budget

Students can anticipate seeing a $355 flat rate fee on their bill for the 2021-22 year, regardless of modality. Under the current projections, the IFC anticipates collecting $4,106,640 from the fee in the upcoming year, and will be drawing $373,781.09 from the reserves to meet budgetary needs.  

Contact the author at scarpenter18@mail.wou.edu

Approved IFC fee application makes historic changes for student run committees

ASWOU and WOU administration debate over IFC fee application leads to new Oregon Legislation proposals 

Sydney Carpenter | News Editor

The Associated Students of Western Oregon University and Western administration have concluded their debate over fee application for winter term. 

As a result of the actions of administration, ASWOU is working with Oregon legislators to improve the current Oregon statue that is supposed to protect and guarantee student autonomy over incidental fees.

“Much of the problem is that the law as written now provides the opportunity for an institution to ‘pocket veto’ the student fee through inaction and enough delays,” said Oregon Student Association Executive Director Andrew Rogers in an article written by Oregon Public Broadcasting. 

During the discussions fee revision, ASWOU President NJ Johnson reports delayed action and staling of IFC processes by President Rex Fuller.

“We had sent the fee request on Nov. 25,” said Johnson, “ We needed … for him to respond to the fee request by Dec. 9.”

At the time President Fuller was sent the request, he had no authority to approve the fee in its entirety. However, in an emergency Board of Trustees meeting held on Dec. 8, the committee gave Fuller temporary permission to approve the IFC fee. According to President Johnson, President Fuller was asked to approve the fee by 1 p.m. on Dec. 9, and reports receiving a response around 12:34 p.m that day. Instead of approving the fee Fuller questioned aspects of the proposal.

“He had two weeks to ask questions,” said Johnson, “All of the questions asked were just meant to stall our process so that a potential HECC appeal would have been nullified. We’d be in a position where we have to accept the university’s offer for another stimulus. A stimulus that wouldn’t be able to sufficiently fund the programs that we needed to.”

At that time, ASWOU was in the process of filing a second appeal to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to have a third party evaluate the administration’s rejection of the IFC fee. 

The first appeal was written in September after the IFC was denied consultation with the Board of Trustees to discuss formatting their fee so that it reflected a campus attending classes 95% online. The appeal was ultimately withdrawn by ASWOU after Fuller stated that the IFC would receive a negotiated million dollar deal on the condition they withdraw their appeal to HECC. ASWOU filed their second appeal later that afternoon on Dec. 9, after their discussion with Fuller.

Following the HECC appeal, Johnson received an email from Fuller saying he would charge the IFC fee.

“For the IFC it seemed that we appealed and there was an attempt to stall us, but we didn’t let it stall us,”  said junior communications major and IFC chair Makana Waikiki. “The president then realized that we were very serious and prepared to move along with the HECC appeal.”

Waikiki explained that it appeared the administration didn’t want ASWOU to make the HECC appeal, so they agreed to charging the IFC fee. Never in Western’s IFC history has a fee established for the year been changed in the middle of that fiscal year. Although a monumental moment for student autonomy, Johnson expressed how disappointed he was that the fee was only accepted after legal action was taken.

“It’s a disappointment that so much effort and time has to go into retaining our rights as students,” said Johnson.

For the upcoming term, regardless of modality and amount of credits being taken, all students will see an flat rate IFC fee of $150 on their bill in comparison to their previous two tier fee system approved back in Apr. 2020. This fee charged students over $200 depending on course load.

In a press release issued on Dec. 16, ASWOU calls for students to participate in the new legislative process taking place within Oregon law. To be involved in the statewide student effort to pass legislation which regulates student fees, contact Oregon Student Association at andrew@orstudents.org to learn how to advocate for student voices.

Contact the author at scarpenter18@mail.wou.edu

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

The IFC makes preliminary funding decisions

The IFC faces threats of funding withdrawal and being denied consultations for applying a fee

Sydney Carpenter | News Editor

Over the course of several months, Western administration and the Incidental Fee Committee have been in debate over the IFC’s Incidental Fee.

For winter term, it was discussed in the committee’s Oct. 29 meeting that President Rex Fuller would potentially be supplying another $1 million stimulus from the online tech fee — similar to funding supplied in fall term. IFC members briefly discussed applying a flat rate fee of $25 in comparison to their current fee system: students with one to five credits pay $265, and students with more than six credits pay $395.

In their Nov. 5 meeting, the committee announced that President Fuller changed his $1 million offer to $415,000 on the condition that the committee does not attempt to make any mid-year fee modifications and maintains their two-tier system approved back in spring 2020. 

In an email sent to ASWOU President NJ Johnson, President Fuller projected IFC expenses totaling $900,000 due to winter term being less expensive. Fuller cited that remaining funding for winter term would come from the $100,000 carryover from fall term, $85,000 from the current IFC fee and $300,000 from the $1.3 million in IFC reserves.

Despite Fuller’s conditions, the IFC has opted to carry out its normal governing processes — an extensive list — protected by OR statute 352.105.

“(There are) serious problems making our committee rely on online fee,” said junior philosophy English double major and IFC member Nick Denning in the fourth meeting transcripts. “No control over the amount of money we receive, administration is doing that all on their own and they decide what to charge and where money goes. All of a sudden we are reliant on online tech fees. (We) cannot criticize it because (our funding) will go away.”

Following their own timeline and deciding to not rely on Fuller, the IFC approved all preliminary budget proposals in their fifth meeting held on Nov. 12. Although the IFC requested areas to present budget proposal reflecting 50% funding, areas such as Student Media received an additional $1,500 to meet their needs, so they would not need to pull money from their reserves; Campus Recreation was given an additional $5,000 to increase workers to full time; Creative Arts received an additional $1,000 for student employment; ASWOU’s budget was given an additional $4,452 to allow Office Coordinator to be 1.0 FTE; Athletics requested funds for both winter and spring term in preparation for plane ticket purchases if travel is allowed.

After approving budget proposals, the committee discussed potential fee prices; in their deliberation, the IFC agreed to two possible fee scenarios. The first scenario involves all students, regardless of whether they are taking an online class, paying a flat rate fee of $150 and around $360,000 would be taken from reserves if the committee is not able to convince the Board of Trustees to lower the online tech fee. In the second scenario, if the IFC can bring down the price on the online tech fee, then all students, regardless of whether they are taking an online class, would pay a flat rate fee of $175 and around $250,000 would be taken from reserves.

Additionally, newly elected IFC Chair Makana Waikiki announced that although she attempted to request a Dec. 16 emergency meeting with the Board of Trustees, Chair Betty Komp did not reply to Waikiki. Instead, Komp only replied to ASWOU President Johnson, saying that she couldn’t endorse an emergency meeting.

At this time, due to the unwillingness of the Board of Trustees to meet with the IFC and President Fuller’s plans to withdraw funding if IFC continues its process, the committee intends to submit an appeal to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to have the IFC’s situation discussed at their Dec. 10 boarding meeting. Until then, the IFC is continuing to the next phase of their fee establishment process: open hearings being held via Zoom on Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. During these hearings, members of the community can voice their concerns on fees or advocate for more funding in various areas. To participate in the hearings, visit https://wou.edu/ifc/.

As more information is released, the story will be updated.

Contact the author at scarpenter18@mail.wou.edu