Groups have now begun asking students to sign their Special Fee petitions. When you’re asked to sign a group’s petition, what criteria do you use to decide whether to sign it?
Many students would sign every petition. Some just don’t care. Some think that it’s always better to have more money allocated to any student activity than to any other use by students, their families, scholarship funds, and government grants. Some want more groups to be approved so that the total activity fee is higher, thereby letting them get a larger full refund the next year.
Most students apply some criteria. If the group were totally ridiculous or wasteful, they’d vote “no.” However, they may not actually investigate groups’ budgets themselves, instead relying on other students and the media to identify bad budgets.
One common criterion is whether the group has broad appeal. The Band, The Bridge, and The Daily would be OK, but community groups and little-known publications would fail this test. This is essentially a weak version of the libertarian position that governments should only provide public goods.
Some students would rely solely on their personal preferences, supporting groups they like (perhaps the Jewish Student Alliance) and opposing those they don’t care for (perhaps MSAN). What these students ignore is that they’re not just stating their personal support for the group, but they are supporting the semi-coercive taxation of others to support that group. It is difficult to see how one could argue that everybody should pay for JSA but that MSAN should not be publicly funded.
What are your criteria?
Personally, I believe that Special Fees are an enormously wasteful method of allocating resources to student activities and that we should let students decide how to allocate a fixed activity fee among groups as they see fit. In practice, I use a stricter version of the libertarian public-good test above to determine what to sign and how to vote. I use the weak public-good test to determine what to refund, since at that point I’m allocating my own money, not being asked to approve coercive taxes on other students.