When is it morally right to ask other students to pay for something you can afford?

Model UN’s Special Fee petition is up, and they’re requesting $10,500 for airfare, $4,900 for hotels, and $800 for car rentals. This got me thinking. I can understand the argument that this funding is important because it helps students who otherwise couldn’t afford to travel to Model UN conferences, which could be most of its membership. But what about a student who could easily afford to pay the full cost of their own airfare and hotels? Or what about a student who could have made tradeoffs (e.g., not eating out) and would have been able to pay their own way?

When is it OK for a student who wants something to get other students to pay for it? Does it matter whether the student could have paid for it on their own? Or whether they could’ve paid if had they been more frugal or worked harder at jobs? Whether they wouldn’t do it without the public subsidy? Or how much they are personally benefitting from the activity? How much the rest of campus benefits? If a Special Fee request gets majority approval by students on the ballot, does that morally absolve those wealthy students who are benefitting?

Nothing here is about whether Model UN should or shouldn’t get Special Fees. This is about whether, in general, a wealthy student has a moral obligation to pay their own way, and more broadly about the arguably regressive tax system that we call Special Fees.

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