Update 5/15/2020: this article has been updated to include information from ASUC Senator Romario, who began the petition.
After summer sessions were moved online to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, ASUC Senator Romario, who does not use a last name, started a petition to waive the mandatory 2020 summer campus fee.
As of press time, the petition has more than 360 signatures and stresses the urgency of removing the fee as the charge is currently in students’ CalCentral accounts. For students who want to benefit from the services funded by the campus fee, petition organizers will also advocate for an “opt-in” option to pay the fee.
“In light of recent developments, all summer courses will be online, so many students will not be residing in Berkeley over the summer,” the petition reads. “Additionally, there is a possibility of continued government ordinances that could prevent these services from even functioning.”
During normal summer semesters, students are charged a one-time $349 summer campus fee that goes to student services and campus infrastructure, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.
The campus summer fee is then split into various smaller fees that are allocated to several campus organizations and causes, including the ASUC, the Green Initiative Fund, housing security and basic needs, according to Gilmore. She added that the largest portion of the summer campus fee goes to Lower Sproul and wellness fees.
“We know that students are going through an exceptionally challenging time,” Gilmore said in an email. “We are here to assist them through financial aid options, counseling services and other resources.”
Gilmore added that with the onset of remote operations, campus is facing increased costs in many areas, including investments in video collaboration software site licenses.
The campus is reviewing whether or not to change the summer campus fee, however, there are aspects to consider, according to Gilmore. Despite most students currently residing off-campus, the fee will continue to cover many of campus’s expenses, with most student services being available remotely.
“We’re currently in communication with campus administration to devise a solution that doesn’t erode vital basic needs resources while also not straining already stressful financial situations,” Romario said in an email.
According to Graduate Assembly President Adam Orford, questions must be asked about the fairness of charging students for services they cannot use when off-campus. He added that the campus should confirm with the UC Office of the President if university policy permits charging online-only students all components of the campus fee.
Yet, for the campus to persist after the shutdown, money from tuition and fees is necessary, according to Orford.
“Just because students won’t directly benefit from each of these doesn’t mean they shouldn’t pay them,” Orford said in an email. “The idea is, if you go to Berkeley, you pay the fees that make Berkeley, Berkeley.”