The Temple News explores the history and process of the General Activity Fee.
After finals end and summer begins, some student and department heads will remain on Main Campus discussing finances.
This summer, as per usual, the committee in charge of divvying the fund generated by the General Activity Fee will meet for a day to hear the cases of GAF-receiving parties – departments and large student organizations.
The GAF is charged to both undergraduate and graduate students during the fall and spring semesters. For full-time students, GAF is charged at $45, whereas part-time students are assessed $10. As of Fall 2010, this fee was consolidated into a University Services Fee, which is $295 for most students.
This year, the fund generated by GAF totaled $2,568,436. This amount is split amongst the departments and organizations. However, exactly how much each group receives is not made public.
Requests to the university by The Temple News for a line-item breakdown of the GAF funding have been denied.
The GAF was created in April 1983 by the university’s Board of Trustees.
“It’s a great opportunity to support the social, cultural and recreational activities at Temple,” Provost Richard Englert told The Temple News, when the fee was proposed [“Administration may charge students to support campus activities, athletics,” George Strawley, April 28, 1983].
At the time, Englert, who is also interim senior vice president for academic affairs, was the acting executive assistant for university administration.
Stephanie Ives, the dean of students and associate vice president of student affairs, oversees the GAF fund allocations.
Ives said the fee was created “in an effort to ensure that students had easy access to cultural, sporting, artistic, educational, intellectual events across campus.”
“It was sort of to enhance what was being offered and to make sure students weren’t being priced out of tickets,” Ives added.
When it was incepted, students paid $25 per semester and received a coupon book in return. Down the line, students received GAF cards, which verified their payment of the fee, but the cards were eventually phased out.
The GAF allocating committee, Ives said, is made up of administrators and “at least one” involved student.
When the committee meets, representatives from the departments and organizations that receive portions of the GAF money must present 20-minute reports on how they spent their money the previous year, as well as how they intend to use it the following year.
“We review all that to make sure there’s integrity in their expenditures and in their reporting,” Ives said. “And then they make a presentation on how they intend to spend it the next year.”
“If any entity is not spending all of their allocation, they are at risk of having a bit of a decline in their appropriation because GAF funds are very competitive,” Ives said.
The only department that receives GAF money that was not listed in the schedule for funding presentations is the department of intercollegiate athletics.
“[Athletics] are separate,” Ives said. “That’s not part of this process.”
“These are the recipients of the general GAF, sort of institution-wide GAF,” Ives added. “The other portion of the GAF, I don’t oversee.”
Hillel Hoffman, the assistant director of university communications, said the athletics director, Bill Bradshaw, oversees the spending of the GAF money given to the athletics department.
Ives later confirmed that 50 percent of the GAF fund goes to the athletics department. The other 50 percent is split amongst the remaining “institution-wide” organizations.
On a schedule of the GAF request presentations for the 2010-11 year, the following organizations are listed as recipients of GAF money: the Tyler Program Board, Leadership, License Fees, Boyer College of Music and Dance, Main Campus Program Board, Dance Department, Campus Recreations – Sports Clubs, Campus Recreated – AdaptedRecreation, Alcohol Task Force, Theater, Temple Student Government, Health Sciences Campus Program Board, Health Sciences Campus Student Government, Ambler Program Board, Ambler Student Government and Temple University Greek Association.
Natalie Ramos-Castillo, the former student body president of TSG, said her organization received $120,000 this year, up from $100,000 last year. This money, she said, is solely for student organizations’ allocations, which her organization is in charge of distributing, and not used for the organization’s operating budget.
A former allocations chairperson for TSG, Ramos-Castillo appeared before the committee the past two summers.
“You kind of go in there like, ‘Oh man, if I don’t present this correctly, we won’t have money,’” Ramos-Castillo said. “And then I would have been the person to blame for all these student organizations not getting this funding, even though they deserve it, and they deserve more of it because it’s their money.”
REPORTING & TRANSPARENCY
The Temple News obtained a copy of the “General Activity Fee: FY 05 – 06 Annual Report.” The report was published by the Office of the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs.
While the annual report lists the department of intercollegiate athletics as a recipient of GAF funding, it is the only party that doesn’t include a spending report. Under a table in the same report titled “Summary of Allocations by Category,” there is no allocated amount for the “Athletics” category.
The only report made publicly available related to GAF finances is a spending report from Fall 2005, which also does not include any information on the athletics portion of GAF, available on the Dean of Students website.
Ives, who began working at Temple in 2008, said she was unfamiliar with the reasoning behind publishing the Fall 2005 report online.
Asked if she had considered making similar reports publicly available, she said she has not.
Ives said the fact the GAF breakdown is not released is not a university policy, but a “university practice.” There is no written policy prohibiting the information from being public.
“We do not release the specific dollar amounts,” Ives said.
Ramos-Castillo said although she was interested in seeing a line-item breakdown of the GAF made public, she was not able to discuss it with administrators this year.
“Unfortunately during my presidency, a lot of other things have popped up, especially with the budget cuts, so we weren’t able to focus on this type of inquiry that students have,” Ramos-Castillo said. “But, it is something that should be brought up to the trustees and President [Ann Weaver] Hart, and other administrators, that students want to know this information.”
Ramos-Castillo said departments seeing their peers’ portion of the GAF money shouldn’t affect the public distribution of GAF breakdown reports.
“This GAF committee decides who gets the funding, and they have the final say. No matter what department, [it] needs to respect their decision if [the committee is] doing it in the best interest of students and where the money is going to be spent best,” Ramos-Castillo said. “That kind of answer doesn’t really fulfill the question, really.”
“It’s something students should be aware of and should have more of a say than just having one student on the GAF committee, since it is the fee that we pay,” Ramos-Castillo added. “They just really need to come out with figures and really come out with information for us in general, so we know how our money is being spent. I think it’s important.”
Colin Saltry, who recently succeeded Ramos-Castillo in becoming the new TSG student body president, mirrored Ramos-Castillo’s statements.
“There’s like a cloud of uncertainty in terms of students,” Saltry said. “I think we should embrace where we’re spending our money, and we should be able to talk about it, because, after all, we’re the ones paying the bill.”
Angelo Fichera can be reached at email@example.com.