Sonoma State University administrators are considering a variety of course fee increases for the fall semester, according to correspondence between President Ruben Armiñana and Sonoma State University’s Fee Advisory Committee.
In a letter dated April 5, from Associated Students President Brandon Mercer and Vice President of Student Affairs Matthew Lopez-Philips to Arminana, a fee of $60 for freshman science class SCI 120A and a $50 fee for SCI 120B were recommended against the wishes of the Fee Advisory Committee.
Both Mercer and Philips are co-chairs on the committee.
The fees were unanimously opposedby the Fee Advisory Committee citing the courses should be funded by existing university funding. The fee increases were approved anyway byArmiñana.
“The Fee Advisory Committee voted to send a recommendation to President Armiñana to not approve the proposed course fee,” said Mercer. “President Armiñana decided to approve the fee against the committee’s recommendation.”
Fees for the photography program in Sonoma State’s art and art history departments were discussed as well. In a letter to Arminana, the Fee Advisory Committee recommendedfees for photography courses Arts 208, 308 and 457 be increased from $45 to $67 andArts 210 and 310 be increased from $62 to $92 with the caveat that Arminana instruct the department not to ask students to purchase supplies in order to cover operating expense deficiencies.
Currently students buy printer ink separately from the lab fee.
The proposal to increase course fees for Arts 208, 210, 308, 310 and 457 were drafted by
Professor of Photography Shannon Benine and Matthew Barnes and were sent to the Fee Advisory Committee on Oct. 1, 2015. The original proposal cites that a lab fee of $120 is necessary to cover consumable supplies such as printer ink, tape and cleaning supplies. The proposal also states the fee would save students money as the new lab fee would be less than the current lab fee plus the cost of buying individual inkjet cartridges.
“When I came here, I was really surprised at how low our lab fees were and how we were operating to make it run. Like other programs across the nation, Sonoma State started to slowly add in a digital component to the analog curriculum,” said Benine. “As a lab fee the students are able to use their federal aid, grants or student loans to help cover these costs eliminating the stress of having to find money mid-semester to buy more inks.”
The Fee Advisory Committee settled on a fee of $67 for Arts 208, 308 and 457 and $92 for Arts 210 and 310 based on a Consumer Price Index adjustment from 1998 to 2015 levels, with the rest of necessary funding being allocated to Sonoma State’sAcademic Affairs department.
“We cannot run a program on lab fees that haven’t been increased in 15 years, and fund both the analog and digital side of the program,” said Benine. “I have been teaching in higher education since 2005 and at every other institution I’ve taught at, this is a typical photography lab fee. We do not require textbooks, we require supplies for creating works of art.”
The increases for the photography courses were voted on by the Fee Advisory Committee on Oct. 28, 2015 and were approved by Arminana on Dec. 11, 2015.
As a response to the recommendation by the Fee Advisory Committee, Mercer wrote a letter of dissent against the proposed fee hikes. Mercer voted against the fee increases for the photography courses statingstudents shouldn’thave to cover shortfalls in department funding that the university is responsible for.
“Students taking these course are responsible for paying this new increased course fee for each photography course played out in the proposal,” says Mercer. “Students that are pursuing photography are thus paying more for their degree than students like myself, an economics student who has not payed a single course fee.”
Mercer also stated in the letter that fully funding the photography department is a first step in returning Sonoma State to pre-recession funding levels.
“Prior to the Great Recession, when CSU budgets were cut by as much as a third of their original levels, departments were given an amount each year by the university that to cover the costs of providing a course,” said Mercer. “Today, almost the entirety of money spent on instruction is on faculty salaries and benefits which does not allow for much left over to bolster department operating expenses to purchase needed supplies or other essential services.”
Students who take photography classes chimed in as well.
“The art department can use the money,” says senior Art major Simon Cherin-Gordon. “Our tuition should cover paying for equipment that the department needs such as printers and ink.”
Fees for the photography courses were originally set to be implemented for the Spring 2016 semester, but have been pushed to the following semester.
Fee increases for Sci 120 A and Sci 120b as well as Arts 208, 210, 308, 310 and 457 are set to be implemented in the upcoming fall semester.