The Instructional Resilience and Enhancement Fee, or IREF, proposed by UC Berkeley administration to fund instructional technology was decreased from an annual cost of $264 to $212 following negotiations with the ASUC, the Graduate Assembly and the Committee on Student Fees.
According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, the IREF supports technological services including bCourses, Canvas, Zoom Pro for students and Microsoft. She added that the fee also funds the Student Technology Equity Program and the Student Help Desk.
ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert said he was “irate” when he heard about the IREF, alleging that it was proposed by the administration “unilaterally” without consulting the ASUC or Graduate Assembly.
“At first, our strategy, and my strategy in particular, was to fight tooth and nail to try to get this fee taken off the table entirely, but it became fairly clear the administration was not willing to budge on that,” Weichert said. “But from there I shifted my strategy really toward mitigation and trying to reduce the cost as much as possible for students.”
Weichert added that imposing fees without student consent could potentially lead them to think they no longer have the power to choose what gets funded with their student fees, which could discourage them to renew or vote for student fees that are supporting critical services.
According to Weichert, the administration’s imposition of the IREF is a step toward “uncharted territory.”
“This is essentially the campus saying, ‘well, it is not our job to fund these services through tuition, so we’re going to charge an extra fee on top of that for you to access bCourses or Piazza,’ ” Weichert alleged.
In an effort to achieve a compromise on the IREF, campus vice chair of student affairs Stephen Sutton said in an email that the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees, or CACSSF, met with senior campus leadership through the spring semester to lower the fees.
He said the CACSSF suggested using the Student Services Fee reserves to reduce the total amount of the IREF for students.
“Over the next three years, about $5 million of the around $7 million of reserve funding that there is, will be applied to cover some of the costs of the Instructional Resilience and Enhancement Fee,” Weichert said.
Weichert is “very happy” his administration along with other student leaders were able to reduce the cost of the fee.
However, he said he hopes the state will pressure campus to not offload core instructional costs on students.
“My hope is that the state can provide more pressure than the students can or that we as students can go to our representatives and say, ‘why am I being essentially double charged on this both through tuition that is going up and also student fees that are going up?’ ” Weichert said.