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Executive Order 740, The California State University Student Fee Policy, authorizes a campus president to utilize an alternative consultation process when a referendum is determined not to be the best mechanism to achieve appropriate and meaningful consultations on a new student fee. The scope of the Campus Quality (CQ) fee, the complexity of implementation, the broad impact and therefore the desire to include faculty and staff perspectives, and historically low voter turn-out for referenda contributed to the conclusion that an alternative consultation process would be more appropriate than a student referendum.
President Koester notified the Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC) via e-mail (Appendix A) on March 14, 2008, of her intent to use an alternative consultation process to seek input on a new student fee as required by EO 740. The memo also proposed the process to be used to solicit feedback on the CQ fee. The SFAC was requested to provide feedback on the proposed procedures by March 19, 2008.
Provost Harry Hellenbrand and Vice President Terry Piper met with the SFAC on March 26, 2008, to present the suggested language for the fee proposal. The fee proposal language used in the public announcement was approved by the SFAC at the March 26 meeting.
An assessment of students' perspectives on the use of campus fees was conduct from March 13 - 19 to determine whether sufficient support existed to proceed with developing a new fee proposal. A random sample of 10,000 undergraduate students was obtained from the department of Institutional Research. The sample was weighted toward lower division students (40% freshmen, 25% sophomores, 20% juniors, 15% seniors) in order to give greater voice to those who will experience the greatest impact of the fee. Those selected to participate received an e-mail from the vice president for student affairs inviting them to participate in the survey. A link to the on-line survey as provided in the e-mail. A follow-up reminder was sent on March 24. A response rate of 14.6% (N=1460) was achieved. The collection and tabulation of survey results was managed by StudentVoice, Inc. (www.studentvoice.com). The division of student affairs contracts with StudentVoice to conduct assessment projects on a regular basis.
The university vice presidents reviewed the survey results (Appendix B) and concluded that sufficient support existed to advance a fee proposal. This conclusion was based on the following findings.
Forums. A series of forums for the campus community were scheduled (see Appendix C) to solicit reaction and input to the fee proposal. Invitations as well as a copy of the proposal (Appendix D) and the FAQ sheet (Appendix E) were sent to students from specific constituent groups, e.g., Associated Student and University Student Union Boards of Director, presidents of clubs and organization). Invitation to the open forums, e.g., all students, all faculty and staff, were included with the public announcement of the fee proposal (Appendix F). The announcement of the fee proposal appeared in the Sundial April 1, 9, 14, 21 and 22.
On-Line Feedback. A web site was created to present the proposal, FAQ, and survey results (www.csun.edu/studentaffairs/campusqualityfee/). Individuals visiting the web site were able to submit reactions, suggestions, and other forms of input. Announcement of the availability of the web site appeared in the invitations to the forums, in the public announcements, and was announced at all forums. On April 26 a broadcast e-mail (Appendix G) was sent to all students encouraging their visit the fee proposal web site and to register their opinions. The e-mail indicated that April 30 would be the last date to submit feedback on-line. On April 28, 29, and 30 an informational ad was to appear in the Sundial reminding student, faculty and staff of the April 30 deadline for submitting comments. The Sundial failed to print the ad (Appendix H).
Academic Administration and Faculty Governance. Meetings were held with the academic deans, council of chairs, and the faculty senate executive committee to discuss the fee proposal.
Appendix I presents the summaries of the seven forums. The introduction at each forum informed the attendees that general notes would be taken so that we could as accurately as possible report the perspectives of the attendees. Each summary indicates the number of attendees, questions and comments related to the alternative consultation process, and questions and comments related to the fee proposal. The questions and comments represent as closely as possible the contributions of the attendees although they may not be direct quotes. In some cases the summary statement represents a composite of several statements on the same topic. In other case the statement distills the central idea of a much longer contribution.
Comments provided during the forums or written and turned in after the forums can be categorized into four general themes: 1) comments on the alternative consultation process, 2) comments in support of the fee proposal, 3) comments opposing the fee proposal, and 4) miscellaneous comments. Each theme will be addressed next.
Alternative Consultation Process. Comments concerning the alternative consultation process were generally negative focusing almost exclusively on the absence of a referendum. Nearly all the comments on the process came from students or individuals who identified themselves as from CFA. Specific concerns included a belief that student point-of-view was not being considered; that the decision to implement the fee had already been made, and that students were not getting to make the decision about the fee.
Statements in Support. Students expressing support for the fee tended to focus on the benefits s/he would receive from specific elements of the proposal. Particular support was expressed for the elimination of course-specific fees and for increased Instructionally Related Activities funding. Support for technology and for student services was expressed less often or were indirectly identified as helping all students. Some students expressed support with the expectation that more course sections would be provided to speed up progress to graduation. The athletes who attended the forums were solidly in favor of the fee. While they acknowledged the benefit they will receive they also stressed the benefit to the campus and community by having a strong athletic program. Some comments focused on the cost benefit ratio, i.e., a lot of benefit for relatively low cost.
Faculty and staff tended to express support for the fee proposal by citing the benefits to students learning opportunities inside and outside of the classroom. Particularly strong statements were made about the need to correct the inequity in the IRA process caused by insufficient funds and the difficulty in offering lab courses with insufficient funding. Support for athletics came in the form of enhancing the reputation of the university.
A Resolution in Support of Campus Quality Fee Proposal was approved by the Faculty Senate on April 10, 2008 (included with Appendix I.)
Statements in Opposition. The majority of negative comments made by students express the point of view that the fee will have a detrimental financial affect on many students. Some thought the fee would decrease access for low-income and AB 540 students. Concern was expressed that financial aid would not cover the fee increase. Other students objected to paying a fee that provided a benefit to others and not to themselves, e.g., paying to cover someone else's lab fees or athletes' scholarships. Expression of opposition to the athletic portion of the fee focused on the small number of athletes, the lack of competitiveness of our teams, and the lack of student interest in athletics and the commuter nature of the student body. Two other concerns were raised as major concerns the lack of specificity in the allocation of funds and the lack of clear accountability measures.
Faculty and staff who objected to the fee proposal tended to do so base on the potential negative impact on student's ability to attend. Some felt the fee proposal should not have been considered while a state university fee might also be implemented. A representative of the CFA read a letter from the CSUN CFA President which was very critical of the fee and the fee process (included with the faculty and staff forum summary.)
Miscellaneous Comments. A significant portion of the comments focused on the implementation of the fee. Specifically, what mechanisms would be put into place to allocate funds. Frequently mentioned was a need for greater student participation in the allocation decision making. Some students expressed the view that students should manage the entire fee allocation process. Some students offered suggestions on how to spend the fee money. Other students challenged the rationale for the fee, criticize the "real" intentions of administrators, or made other judgments. Some discussion of the financial aid process and types of aid also occurred.
Facilitator Observations. When considered in their totality a clear preference for or against the fee does not emerge from the forums. Some forums were decidedly negative (EOP) while others were decidedly positive (IRA) most were mixed. The majority of comments in all forums were made by a minority of participants. Three particularly vocal opponents to the fee proposal were present at three of the forums and tended to dominate the time by asking the same questions and expressing the same challenges. Athletes were over-represented in comparison to non-athletes in three of the forums. With the exception of the CFA representative at the faculty and staff forum, there appeared to be agreement among the faculty and staff that the fee proposal was necessary. Some faculty spoke of the great difficulty they had in deciding to support the fee increase because of their concern for the impact on our low-income students. Their decision to support the fee focused on the need of the university to maintain quality, institutional reputation, and the greater good for all students.
The fee proposal information and feedback website was launch on March 31. Comments were accepted from April 1 - April 30. A total of 727 individual entries were made. The feedback was analyzed to identify the various perspectives on the fee proposal. Six (6) categories were identified: 1) supporting the fee statements, 2) conditional comments or alternatives, 3) opposing the fee statements, 4) mixed comments, 5) questions, 6) general comments. Each entry was then placed in one of the categories based on the overall content of the entry. Appendix J displays the distribution of entries by perspective category. Nearly twice as many entries expressed opposition to the fee proposal as expressed support for the proposal.
Once each entry was categorized, the content of the entry was analyzed to identify whether a specific aspect(s) of the fee proposal was being addressed - course fees, technology, IRA, student support services, athletics. One entry could have addressed multiple aspects of the proposal. Appendix J also identified the number of entries that addressed each aspect of the proposal. The athletic aspects of the fee proposal received more comments than the other aspects combined.
The content analysis of the individual entries revealed a large number of comments that addressed issues other than the 5 aspects of the fee proposal. These included the expressed a need for more information on the proposal; the expressed concerns with the process; those that raised concerns about the need for greater accountability; and, 243 addressing potential impact of the fee proposal. It is worth noting that 72.5% (N=243) of the "Other" comments focused on the possibility of negative financial impact on students. Additionally, the 243 entries focused on the negatieve financial impact of the proposed fee represents 66% of the total entries opposed to the fee.
Appendix K - P contain the website entries by perspective category noting the proposal aspects address for each entry.
Some individuals and organizations participated in the consultation process in ways other than those discussed above.
Appendix Q contains petitions in support of the fee proposal from students and staff/faculty delivered from the department of Intercollegiate Athletic. The petitions contain approximately 330 student athlete signatures and 60 staff/faculty signatures in support of the fee proposal.
Appendix R contains report on consultation conducted in the College of Health and Human Development. All departments in the college are represented. The results are mix although it appears there is more support for the fee or for the fee with conditions than opposition to the fee. Conditions focused on more specific information about the allocation of the funds.
Appendix S is a memo from Dean Susan Curzon, dean of the libraries, concerning her consultation with students who work in the library and the members of the Faculty Senate Library Committee.