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Sonoma State University president seeks to impose new $500 annual fee on all students

February 9, 2014

by Peter Phillips

Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University by David Wakely, SSU
Weill Hall, opulent showpiece of the $145 million Green Music Center, opened in September 2012 at Sonoma State University, though the school had only 150 music majors and no orchestra. SSU President Ruben Armiñana modeled it after Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, summer residence of the Boston Symphony, to attract world class performers to California wine country. To defeat 15 years of intense faculty opposition, Sanford Weill, former Citigroup CEO, who has a home in the area, contributed $12 million and raised corporate donations, especially from MasterCard. – Photo: David Wakely, SSU
President Ruben Armiñana is on a fast track to announce a $500 annual fee increase for all students at SSU. He has set up a number of Associated Students-controlled meetings starting Feb. 6 with the goal of informing his decision by Feb. 15. Experienced SSU observers believe that he has already made the decision to impose the fee and is just going through the motions of consultation required by CSU policy.

The proposed increase is called a “Success Fee” and would supposedly be used for more classes. The timing of the fee announcement comes just days after the ending of a registration crisis where many hundreds of students could not get the classes they needed for timely graduation. An obvious question is – was the registration crisis allowed to happen as an administrative strategy for implementing new fees?

The primary reasons to oppose a fee increase at SSU include the fact that there is more than enough money at SSU to provide classes for all students to graduate in a timely manner. The money has been mismanaged by the president through a bloated administration, the diversion of campus resources to the management of the Green Music Center and interest on massive campus debt. SSU already ranks third in the CSU for campus fees. SSU has the highest student manager ratio with close to twice as many managers as similar size campuses.

Students and their families should not have to bail out campus mismanagement to the tune of $4.2 million a year. Sixty-two percent of the SSU graduating class of 2012 carried an average of $21,206 in student loan debt. The cost of a BA degree could go up $2,000 to $3,000 if the fee is imposed. Financial aid will not cover the fee. For working and low-income students, the only way to cover the cost would be to go deeper into debt with student loans.

Students and their families should not have to bail out campus mismanagement to the tune of $4.2 million a year.

Students, faculty and alumni are organizing “NO FEE” meetings on and off campus. One strategy being considered is asking students, alumni, faculty and their families to support a SSU donations boycott if any new fees are imposed by the administration. SSU spends 76 percent of its donor gift disbursement distribution on buildings and other projects and only 18 percent on instructional programs. SSU’s ratio is the exact opposite of all other CSU campuses, where the average donor gift disbursement to instructional programs is 63 percent.

Follow this issue at http://ssufacultyforqualityeducation.org/. Speak out on this issue by emailing ruben.arminana@sonoma.edu.

Peter Phillips has been a sociology professor at SSU for 20 years. He is president of Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored and co-host with Mickey Huff on the KPFA Project Censored show. He can be reached at peter.phillips@sonoma.edu.

 

6 thoughts on “Sonoma State University president seeks to impose new $500 annual fee on all students

  1. Allison Jenks

    I’m a student that is a part of Associated Students. This article is filled with inaccuracies. President Arminana didn’t set up the Associated Students meetings and has nothing to do with them; the Associated Students themselves did. The meetings are meant to allow students to openly discuss the potential fee. Don’t confuse these meetings with the requirements from Executive Order 1054 IV, assuring Arminana a meaningful consultation.

    Reply
  2. Do Your Research

    Rubin Armiñana had absolutely nothing to do with the open forums. Associated Students decided on their own that they would like to host these forums to get their constituents actively involved. Associated Students has not declared a side and the forums are strictly informative. Also, the provost came into the Associated Students student government senate meeting last Friday (February 7th 2014) and mentioned the fee would be $200 a semester/$400 a year, not $250 a semester/$500 a year. Please do proper research before feeding the public fallacies. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Ben

    I am am alumni of the University and I was on student government when the Green Music Center was being built and planned. The money used to pay for the center was done through external funding. The money came other sources, not General Fund Dollars, that can only go to the classrooms. Nothing was taken from the General Fund. It was true then and now. Peter Philips, the day that you retire or pass away will be a day when the world becomes a little bit less disingenuous. I am ashamed that my tax dollars pay your salary.

    When I was a student the faculty threatened to strike unless they got a pay raise. They got the raise. The money came the General Fund, if I am not mistaken. The faculty blames the President, when really it's the faculty that are screwing the students.

    Reply
    1. Julia

      Hey Ben, I'm a recent graduate of SSU and as a human being, I find your comment irrelevant and, quite frankly, disturbing. No one is going to take anything you have to say seriously when you're wishing death upon someone with a different opinion than you.

      That being said, it does not matter whether the funding for the GMC was donation-based or not. The bottom line is: If students cannot get classes, most if not all funding should go to education.

      Professors are a part of this equation. The professors at SSU are some of the lowest paid in the CSU system, and from what I gather based on conversations with friends at other schools, some of the hardest working. I agree that raising their salary should not come before students getting into classes, but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve it — especially when administrators' salaries increase all the time.

      Reply
  4. Julia

    A well written article with good questions asked. As stated, student education should ALWAYS come first. I hope more people try to understand this issue and that this financial mismanagement improves for the sake of the students.

    Reply
  5. Sarah

    Although this topic is very controversial and tends to bring about heated debate, it is important that things that are published [especially by the president of multiple media freedom foundations] should be extensively fact check which this article is not. It is easy to utilize information that stirs anger and animosity but as a current SSU student that supports herself through college, it is important for me to know that my school and faculty are being represented correctly and this article is riddled with inaccuracies and is spreading false information on an already confusing topic which leads to further anger and animosity. I have attended multiple forums put on by the independently run Associated Students and they have been nothing short of balanced and informative. Please do not make accusations against the students who are fighting for their voices to be heard. And please do your research before publishing false information. Thank you.

    Reply

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