The fee was created as a result of the Priorities Committee’s reconsideration of University support for co-ops on campus and prompted by student interest in creating a new co-op, University spokesperson Martin Mbugua said. With the new fee, dues for 2D, Brown Co-op and the International Food Co-op will be $600, $650 and $650 per semester, respectively.
2D has since expressed its disapproval of the fee in meetings with administrators, and an online petition to the University and alumni letters to administrators.
Former 2D member Sarah Bluher ’13 said that while members were initially told last year the purpose of the increased fee was to help the University pay for maintenance services last year, subsequent explanations offered by the University were different.
The Priorities Committee, which consisted of two undergraduates who were members of co-ops at the time, decided on a $50 fee that is consistent with the University’s treatment of all other students who are charged for part of the cost the University incurs by cleaning the kitchens and maintaining equipment, Mbugua said.
Bluher explained that Associate Dean Maria Flores-Mills told her that 2D was an exclusive space because prox access to the 2D kitchen is limited to members and the facilities include a vegetarian kitchen. 2D offered to make the space accessible to all, but they were told by the University that they were evading the fee, Bluher said.
“We are protesting the fee because we are not being treated equally in relation to everyone else on campus,” Bluher said, citing the fact that many student groups such as a cappella groups, theater groups and club cycling do not pay for their access to University facilities.
Flores-Mills met with members of 2D last August, two months after the preliminary email announcing the fee was sent to co-op members, Mbugua said.
Flores-Mills did not respond to a request for comment.
According to Mbugua, Flores-Mills, Vice President for University Services Chad Klaus, Executive Director of Housing and Real Estate Services Andrew Kane and Associate Director for Student Housing Lisa DePaul also met with members of 2D, Brown and IFC in December and February.
Bluher, who attended these meetings, said they discussed several compromises, such as assuming responsibility for janitorial tasks, which the University ultimately declined.
“In the first meetings with administrators, there was a certain level of condescension and indifference that was actually disturbing,” Bluher said.
2D recently began contacting alumni asking them to send letters of support on its behalf to administrators. Current member Nicholas Bellinson ’13 said that administrators were more willing to communicate once alumni contacted them.
“After the letters were received, Dean Flores-Mills communicated with the alumni and first recognized the strong community among the co-op members, and she expressed appreciation for the interest alumni showed,” Mbugua said. “Many alumni, after learning about the full picture, were satisfied with our response.”
Mbugua said no petitions have been presented to the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students.
One such letter provided to the Daily Princetonian expressed surprise that “the University would single out a particular group for additional fees, given that the University does not charge special fees to undergraduates for the use of other university facilities.”
Carlyn Cook ’13, a current 2D member, said the fee could set a precedent for the fate of student activities in the future.
“If the University can just arbitrarily charge extra money for your living situation, who is to stop them from charging extra for certain activities you do? Who knows, you can be charged extra for living in a nicer dorm,” Cook said.
Neither Brown nor IFC participated in the February meeting with administrators.
“We expressed our dislike of the fact that they didn’t consider us in the conversation, but we concluded that the $50 fee is reasonable,” former Brown president Dan Velasco ’13 said.
Similarly, IFC co-president Jasmine Edelstein ’13 said she believes that the fee is fair in light of what the University does for the co-ops.
“They provide us with appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, a working list of who’s in the co-op and certain funding,” Edelstein said. However, she expressed a need for increased communication between the administration and the co-ops in the event of future fee increases.
“[The current fee increase] kind of is similar to ‘taxation without representation’ for lack of a better term,” Edelstein said.
The Real Food Co-op, located in Edwards Hall and affiliated with Mathey College, is not recognized by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and will not face this additional fee.
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