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Skagit Valley College students want more say

"Students at Skagit Valley College's Whidbey campus say they want more independence from the the main campus in Mount Vernon and they want a bigger say in how money collected on Whidbey is spent.They made that clear recently when they overwhelmingly backed a campus initiative that would have created a new local committee to distribute student service and activity fees. Bill Brown, outgoing chairman of Whidbey's student association, said that though the Whidbey campus makes up nearly 30 percent of the entire college population, it has routinely gotten less than 20 percent of the student fees to use locally. And even then, he said, local expenditures must still be approved by the joint Service and Activity Committee and student legislature, where the Mount Vernon campus holds a majority of votes.What we want to come of this is equal rights for the students of the Whidbey campus, Brown said. It's gradually been getting better but the students of Whidbey campus are still not getting to decide how the money is spent.Service and activity, or S&A fees, are added to each student's tuition payment. A student taking 10 or more credits, for example, pays an extra $51 into the S&A account. Once collected, the funds are redistributed by the state to be used for local projects, clubs, events and other co-curricular activities.At stake is potentially thousands of dollars that Brown said could be used to encourage new and existing clubs, create a student art gallery, fund a Whidbey campus newsletter or support a number of other local projects. Though Whidbey students approved the initiative by more than 99 percent in the mid-May vote, it failed to pass muster with current state law which states that the college shall have only one S&A fee committee.But they may have scored a victory anyway, said Whidbey campus president Mick Donahue.I think they have really educated the administration here and in Mount Vernon that we need to look at this and come up with a more equitable way to do it, he said this week. I think this is a sort of evolution. This year the (Whidbey) campus has more clubs than it's ever had, and it has more student participation. It's a natural development as we build our campus.Donahue said the vote for more local control is an indication of the growth of the Whidbey campus and the differences in student needs between here and Mount Vernon. Whidbey students, for instance, tend to be older, more traditional, military-based, regularly employed and more predominantly female than Mount Vernon's student population, he said.That's one of the reasons Whidbey students started their own campus newsletter, Harbor Talk, this year. Harbor Talk editor Farid Tavakolian said local students feel they don't get fair representation in the college's Mount Vernon-based campus newspaper The Cardinal.But when Tavakolian presented a request for $6,000 to keep Harbor Talk going next year, the approval committee cut it to only $700.It won't even cover the printing costs, he said. If it suddenly dies it will be a big loss for this campus.On the flip side, Brown said numerous athletic programs at the Mount Vernon campus are supported by fees paid by Whidbey students, even though Whidbey students rarely take part.Brown described the relationship between campuses as contentious but not unworkable and said that he was pleased to see campus administrators and the college's board of directors seriously looking at the problem.Donahue said the administration and board has long considered that the Whidbey campus will eventually stand on its own, particularly following the addition of more classrooms, lab facilities and programs over the next few years. He said some of the growing pains the college is currently feeling are simply a result of its continued growth.Skagit Valley College also operates education centers in South Whidbey and Friday Harbor."

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