By Reyhana Mahomed
Rhodes University is currently sitting with a surplus of R2.5 million in student handout fees that has been accumulated over 10 years across 60 departments.“Students have always been asked to pay for handouts they receive from departments,” explained Dr Colin Johnson, Vice Principal of Rhodes University, “however, one will find that over a period of time, there is a build up and this remains in the university’s resale account.” The resale account is where all the money received from student handouts is kept. Johnson emphasised that the money that has accumulated from student handout fees is that of 10 years’ and not of this year’s or last year’s.Xolani Nyali, Vice-President Internal of the Student Representative Council (SRC), commented that the university adds a profit to the students’ handout fees. Professor Arthur Webb, Dean of Commerce, acknowledged that a certain percentage is added to the charge of students’ handout fees but referred to it as a “hassle factor” that is used as a float. “If a book does not arrive at UPB, we have to print a chapter and that is why it was suggested that departments carry a float,” said Webb. With regards to the structure of determining student handout fees, Professor Jeanne Prinsloo, head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies, explained that Rhodes is required to pay copyright costs to the Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (DALRO). DALRO is an organisation that collects royalties on behalf of copyright holders.“We need to pay the costs to be able to reproduce the intellectual ideas of others, it is a legal requirement,” said Prinsloo. Prinsloo explained: “The JMS2 readers, for example, cost about 70 cents a page and one reader will cost the department R15 000 for DALRO and printing costs. The price depends on the number of pages and class [of the text].” The School of Journalism and Media Studies is one of the departments that have the highest fees in student handouts and, a large amount in surplus. Prinsloo said that consequently, after the department established that expenditure on readers and handouts have decreased, student handout fees will be reduced from next year.The issue of surplus funds as a result of student handout fees was raised by the previous SRC. “We requested that the resale account be frozen,” said Nyali, previous treasurer of the SRC.“We determined that the money should be used for student services and not infrastructure,” said Nyali. The SRC received numerous responses from the student body and compiled a proposal for the Registrar of Finance, Tony Long, with the following requests: • R750 000 be set aside for the development of a student building or sports council recreation facility. • Main Library and Law Library development. R150 000 for the purchasing of short loan books in both these libraries.• R70 000 be set aside as seed funding for the Societies Council.• R60 000 for the development of a coffee shop at Rhodes that will stem the tide of alcohol consumption on campus.• Law Library security system.• R130 000 be placed in an interest bearing account for use by future SRCs.These requests add up to R1.2 million. The remaining funds will be placed under the control of the Registrar of Finance to be allocated to departments upon application. Furthermore, with regards to future surpluses, the SRC recommended that all departments set up a structure that deals with student handouts and that class representatives form part of that structure. If there is a surplus after a semester, students should be refunded. A maximum percentage will also be set that can be added after all royalties and printing costs have been settled.With regards to the SRC’s proposal, Prinsloo said, “The money was raised for learning purposes and it would be inappropriate to use it for anything else.”The Commerce faculty suggested that firstly, the money be used for library material. Secondly, to purchase software and printers for student use in the laboratories and finally, the rest of the money go into a bursary scheme.Johnson explained that the surplus funds should not be used for an activity. “It should be used in that specific division and that is why we left it up to each department to decide how they want to spend the money,” he said. There are faculty meetings being held on this issue at the moment. He agreed that some of the propositions made by the SRC could be implemented, but argued: “Is a sporting facility the highest priority? Is that really what we want for the student body or do we assist the students in that department?” and added, “Only students participating in sport will benefit from that facility.”“These recommendations must be carried out,” said Nyali, “[the money] should be used to do things that the student body really want and that the University’s budget cannot absorb.”In order to prevent future surpluses, Johnson said that photocopying fees, text book fees and fees for materials used in practicals will be placed in a separate account, which will prevent confusion of fees that possibly leads to a surplus.