Students to decide on Concert Board fee increase, again

Students will soon put to the test a referendum while voting for their representatives that seeks to increase the fees they pay each semester.

A referendum to increase the Concert Board fee to $9 per semester passed 15-to-2 in a USUAA meeting Feb. 24.

The UAA Concert Board is a team of student volunteers whose mission is to supply college students and the general public with affordable campus entertainment. The board also has a full-time paid coordinator, Zac Clark, who helps organize events.

The proposed increase, which is paid by all students enrolled in at least three credits, will be used to bring more events to UAA, as well as to fund a portion of Clark’s salary, Clark said.

“This fee will allow us to have the opportunity to bring bigger, better shows,” Clark said.

He said last fall Concert Board put on three events, including the Capitol Steps, and this semester the board intends to present at least four events, including “Raining Jane,” which ran in January.

Clark said students feedback tells him that students want more bands coming to UAA – an expensive proposition and a major impetus for the proposed increase.

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“Those events are a lot more expensive,” he said. “So with this fee increase, it would give us an opportunity to be able to offer these bands what they would need to take the time out of their schedule to come and play Alaska.”

Clark said the fact that Alaska is so far removed from the continental U.S. is a major impediment to getting big-name bands to perform because they have to take out more time from their schedules to come up here.

Some members of student government supported the measure because of the need to help the board meet students’ desires.

“The Concert Board brings most of the on-campus events to the students for no or a small (cover) fee,” said Anthony Rivas, USUAA president.

According to the UAA Concert Board Web site, a $5 fee was proposed 1991 in order to bring bigger and better entertainment to UAA students. This initiative passed in 1992 and the program officially began in 1993.

If passed, this year’s increase would be the first ballot referendum to increase this fee from $5 since the program began in 1993.

“An increase has been proposed in the past but never passed USUAA. It was voted on but vetoed by last year’s president,” Rivas said. “He had his reasons, but I’m going to see this one through. I didn’t veto the initiative and I don’t plan to.”

Two proposed increases have failed in the last two semesters. The first was vetoed by Chris Hall, USUAA’s previous president, and the second failed on the ballot in fall 2005.

This time, however, members want to see it passed.

“We’re proposing to increase fees in order to keep the ticket prices low, rather than raising the prices to cover losses,” said USUAA senator and UAA Concert Board member Justice Brooks.

The original proposal, Brooks said, was to raise prices for admission from the range of $5 to $8 for students to between $10 and $20. But a major concern was that by raising ticket prices, fewer students would attend, which could lead to an even bigger deficit, he said.

Student support is the main issue for passing the increase, Brooks said. The Concert Board will have to find a way to inform the student body about the proposal, why it is needed and how it would benefit the students overall, Brooks said. He said a grassroots approach to spreading the word could help gain support.

“The idea of an increase doesn’t bother me at all,” said theater major Christina Gomez. “The discount that they have for students really adds up over time and is worth $9 once a year versus $5 per event or show.”

However, some students will oppose the fee.

“I personally would support the increase because my financial aid covers my fees in one lump sum at the beginning of the semester, so I’m not really worried about increases, but I can see how those kids paying out of pocket would stress about even a little increase,” said psychology major David Beckwith. “Plus, how much of the student population really goes to the concerts? Why should they have to pay in the first place when they don’t even go – let alone pay more?”

In addition to keeping admission prices low, Concert Board wants to increase student interest and give students their money’s worth, Brooks said.

“We want to be seen as a more traditional campus, with more student events and school pride,” Brooks said. “We’re trying to provide events that will make students want to be here on campus, live here on campus and support everything we need to do to keep building the prestige of our campus’ reputation. We want our students to want to be here.”

Brooks said the typical Concert Board event consists of an audience of about 40 percent students and 60 percent general public.

Elections will be held April 11 and 12.