Student vote on 23 fee delayed until next academic year

Northern Arizona University (NAU) students will have to wait until at least fall before voting on how the student government spends their money.

The 23 Fee, which students pay each semester as a funding mechanism for ASNAU, was scheduled to come under review this month, with a student vote being held on what exactly the funds are to be used for. However, ASNAU President Sammy Smart has confirmed a vote will be delayed until sometime in the next academic year.

The allocation of money from the 23 Fee was most previously voted on in spring 2009. In addition to granting funding for club events and student organizations, the fee is used to provide scholarships, host events such as tailgates and Equality Week and keep the Cline Library open until two a.m. It is also used to fund more controversial projects, including the SnowJack Express, which provides students with transportation to Snowbowl and the annual ASNAU concert, which has drawn a considerable amount of negative attention in recent years.

The ASNAU executive team believed the time had come to vote on the 23 Fee once more, which is why they initially pushed for such a vote to take place sometime in April. The vote has been delayed so ASNAU can coordinate with other on-campus institutions to determine new ballot options for students to choose from. The executives hope the vote will take place early in the fall 2013 semester.

For ASNAU Senator Adam Fox, holding another vote four years after the prior one is only one small step.

“We’re assuming that each year we can approve money for the same things, and while that might be the case, I am all for the students voting on each year,” Fox said. “It’s their money; it’s coming out of their tuition and fees and if the 23 Fee is approved then all students have to pay for it, regardless of whether they voted for it or not.”

The discussion over the 23 Fee comes days before the latest ASNAU concert, scheduled to take place on April 12. The process of and selection of the artist has proven to be controversial. Originally, Kid Cudi had been the top vote-getter in the fall student poll with The Fray coming in second. However, since an agreement could not be reached with Kid Cudi, ASNAU asked students a second time early this year. In the second poll, Wiz Khalifa received the most votes (1,267).

“I think if there’s been any controversial aspect of the 23 Fee over the last few years, it’s been the concert,” Fox said. “For one, it’s been decided that each year a lot of money will be allocated to that budget line, so we can bring in a good performer, a high-name one. The problem with that is, I think the last three performers . . . have received a considerable amount of backlash.”

NAU students vote each year on which artist is brought to campus, selecting from a list of options compiled by ASNAU. Ke$ha was selected in 2010, and her opening act, rapper Dirt Nasty, drew protesters who didn’t think his lyrics were appropriate for a college setting. Some students saw the performance as being so offensive it warranted a complete restructuring of the student government system to better represent the largest number of people on campus.

Two years later, the All-American Rejects were brought to NAU as the students’ second choice and questions arose as to if this had actually been the top selection of the students. This led not only to complaints about students not getting what they wanted, but also a series of hostile online attacks on the All-American Rejects.

This past fall, ASNAU chief of staff Makenzie Mastrud, who was responsible for choosing the selection of potential artists, defended the process as a democratic indication of student preference. Mastrud is currently the ASNAU president-elect and will assume office next semester.

Despite Mastrud’s assurances the concert vote reflects student desires, there are many on campus who don’t agree. Luke Contreras, a senior physics major, is graduating in May without ever having attended the free concert.

“I’d probably go if they ever brought someone I wanted to see,” Contreras said.

Political science senior Skyler Clary expressed similar disinterest in the selection.

“I read all the nominees for the last two concerts, and they all sucked,” Clary said. “There was nothing, no one who was nominated that I would want to see. As I understand it, all of the people who were nominated were really expensive, which seems like a kind of senseless waste of my money.”

Contreras and Clary are part of a large segment of the student body that chooses not to vote in the concert selection. According to ASNAU, only 6,451 people participated in the concert vote this year, perhaps a quarter of NAU’s student population of more than 24,000.

This year’s concert features Wiz Khalifa, another rapper whose lyrics have been seen as questionable because they include frequent references to recreational drug use. At least one of Khalifa’s songs also appears to endorse driving while intoxicated.

“The concerts that we’ve been having? They’re not advancing the true academic purpose of NAU, nor does it advance equality or diversity,” Fox said. “I think with the amount of money that’s allocated to that line, which this year was $140,000, I personally feel that money would have been better served elsewhere.”

NAU students may or may not agree, but it’s going to be some time before they’re able to formally express their opinion either way.

Originally published in The Lumberjack (http://jackcentral.com/news/2013/04/student-vote-on-23-fee-delayed-until-next-academic-year/)

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