If for some reason you’re not familiar with the ASSU refund system, basically you as a student are required to pay these fees for groups and organizations, unless you go to that link I’ve posted above and request a refund, with the honor-bound implication that you will not be using that group’s services (I’m not sure, but I think something bad can happen if you end up reneging on that–perhaps my more ASSU-savvy compatriots can fill me in here). In any case, it is particularly interesting in relation to the type of libertarian paternalism choice architecture that Erin was talking about on Sunday.
Instead of a situation where you could join a group and pay dues–that would be fairly straightforward, but perhaps less applicable to publications like the Stanford Daily and the Stanford Progressive (for what it’s worth, the Stanford Review does not receive any student funding). Framing it that way would certainly lead to fewer joiners, regardless of the effort it takes simply because you’ve changed the frame from getting found money to losing money. As Kahneman and Tversky demonstrated, people are risk-averse.
Still, it could just as easily be an opt-in situation as an opt-out one for those, and yet it’s not. Why? The answer seems pretty obvious: money. Much like the newly instituted $200 fine for not having enough units at the beginning of the quarter that led to me picking a five unit class at random (something fairly early in the alphabet like archaeology, I believe) to enroll in despite intending to take 18 units ( two of my five-unit classes required permission numbers), this seems like a fairly straightforward money grab.
On that note, Zoe Richards filed an interesting report in the Stanford Daily noting that the coffers designated to cover refunds are $40,000 short of where they need to be, meaning that the groups themselves will have to pay any refunds charged to their group beyond 10% of their budget out of pocket. But imagine how bad it would be for, say, KZSU and Stanford Concert Network if their funding required students to proactively opt in. In short: choice architecture matters.