Unlike Whitney Houston, I am not every woman. In fact, I am not at all a woman, which sadly works to my favor. When I graduate, I will make more money than any comparable woman in my field regardless of the quality of our skills. I have better access to health care, I’m not too emotional to serve as President, and I don’t even have to make my own sandwiches. Even now, as a man, I don’t have to pay the same amount as a woman for my degree.
Yes, it’s true. On average, women are mandated to pay an extra $6.50 on their tuition at Louisiana Tech over the course of their undergraduate career. This seems to perpetuate a false societal belief that women just are not as valuable as men. But why do women pay more?
If you look at your account summary, which details all the fees that you are charged, you’ll find fees such as the Liberal Arts fee, 12-hour energy surplus fee, and if your sex is female, you’ll find a $0.50 AWS fee.
If you’re like many students, you have no clue what AWS is and why they’ve targeted women. The organization’s full title is the Association of Women Students. AWS is a student organization whose goals are to promote a culture of diversity and enhance leadership and academic opportunities for women on Tech’s campus.
But it’s 2015. Our student body is predominantly female, and we even have a female student government president and vice president, which is actually something to celebrate. Why do women need to be treated as though they are vulnerable and weak — so much so that they require an organization to tax them, but not do things exclusively for them?
Annie Jantz, coordinator of special programs and AWS academic adviser, said she understands there is an air of mystery surrounding the organization.
“AWS, while it is probably not the most visible student organization on campus,” explained Jantz, “and I’m hoping to change that — we tend to work behind the scenes with other organizations and departments to help when the budgetary climate is so bad.”
As of this academic year, AWS has funded additions to the TV lounge in Adams Hall, funded the Peer Leadership Council’s (PLC) female representative’s stipend, PLC’s polo shirts and two non-finalist scholarships for the Miss Tech Pageant for academic achievement and volunteerism.
In years past, AWS has funded, at least in part, the history department’s women’s history month essay contest, the blue emergency call boxes, additional lighting and a bench around Lady of the Mist.
If you are a female who would like to get this fee removed from your account, be prepared for a headache. Initially, I was told that in order to have the fee removed, one had to request it from the Comptroller’s Office. After a quick visit, I found out that isn’t so. To which, I was directed to the third floor of Keeny to the Student Affairs Office to resolve the issue. Although, if you are female, you must be prepared to do this at least yearly. (After speaking with the Comptroller’s Office, they said they would keep the request for a year so that students wouldn’t have to do it quarterly.) A lot of work just to make a point and get your money back.
But it’s just 50 cents. What’s the big deal?
By allowing AWS to mandate a fee on every female student, a precedent is created. This precedent is the same standard that would allow the Black Student’s Union to charge every individual who identified as black a quarterly fee, which is as equally outrageous and prejudiced. A student should not obligated to pay any fees that are not equally applied to the student body en masse. Yes, students have to pay technology fees and fees from their respective departments, but these fees are applied to all students regardless of their identity.
A counterargument that I received while doing research of AWS from an administrator who I will not name said,
“Students do not get to pick and choose their fees. The students that are here now did not choose to have the Tech 2020 fee added to them, but someone before their time here thought that it would be beneficial in the grand scheme.”
While this assertion that many may hold is correct, it is not comparable. The Tech 2020 fee, which is added into students’ tuition without being itemized, is applied to all student regardless of sex or other categorization. On the contrary to Tech 2020, the AWS fee is exclusively applied to females, as if that point has not been made clear yet. An institution should not financially penalize a group of students for their sex.
There’s a solution. It’s quite simple. Make men pay the same, or remove the fee entirely.
If males pay the same fee, the fee could be redressed as a safety fee. Considering previous projects are among those promoting safety on campus, this would not be entirely unreasonable. Requiring females to exclusive be responsible for funding their own safety is effectively victim-blaming. When males pay for safety on campus alongside females, the fee is no long akin to victim-blaming. Or, perhaps, keep AWS as an organization promoting equality and diversity, but require they compete against every other student organization for funding through optional membership fees.
Senator Karen Carter Peterson, who is the chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party and a champion for women’s equality and rights in the Louisiana Senate, said:
“There is a reason that Louisiana was recently named the worst state for women. We expect better than this from our public institutions. Louisiana women must be treated with fairness and respect, not callousness. All Louisianians matter, not just men, or old people, or any other group. All of us need to be treated equally. We should accept nothing less.”
So Tech, let’s be progressive for once. Let’s right a wrong. AWS, though you are well intentioned, your means to an end are oppressive. Though you claim to be fighting for women’s equality, you’ve done just the opposite. However, this is simply reflective of our society at large, so AWS isn’t entirely to blame. Our society could care less about pay equality. Especially in this state, women’s healthcare is extremely restrictive. Not to mention our anti-family policies with no paid maternity leave or sick leave, which disproportionately affects women. So maybe AWS shouldn’t change. Society continually penalizes women for merely being women — what’s one more?
Note: This article was originally published in SPEAK Magazine, Louisiana Tech University’s student magazine, Spring 2015 Edition. All rights reserved. Views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of Louisiana Tech University. Direct inquiries to email@example.com. To access the latest issue, visit http://issuu.com/speakmagazinemedia.