Considering it costs more than $30,000 a year to attend the Eastman School of Music, $60 a semester may not seem like a big deal to some students. Others, however, realize just how many packages of noodles they could get at the closest Wegmans for this amount of money.

What exactly, then, is this “activity fee” that appears on every undergraduate’s term bill? Why do we have to pay it? Who decides what is done with this money, and are these activities really worthwhile?

According to Jonas Thoms, a junior hornist from California and president of the Eastman School of Music Student’s Association, the answers to these questions are really quite simple.

The Eastman Students’ Association is our equivalent to student government. Each full-time Eastman undergraduate student is a member of the SA. As members, students are entitled to attend meetings and express their thoughts and concerns before the Students’ Association Council.

Made up of representatives from each student group that is formally recognized by the SA, the presidents, one representative from each class and four executive officers, the Students’ Association Council is an elected body that meets weekly to make decisions regarding student life at Eastman. Governed by a constitution, the group is in charge of many tasks, but one of its most important functions is deciding how the student activity fee should be allocated.

This is not to say, however, that the SA exists only to spend money. Thoms emphasizes that the SA is vital to life at Eastman, not only because it allows all student voices to be heard, but because it works for the enrichment of student life as well as the community.

Just last year, the groups sponsored by the SA donated money to several charities, including AIDS Rochester and the American Diabetes Foundation. Some of last year’s more popular student activities funded by the SA were the annual Boo Blast, held around Halloween, and the Jury Week Toronto Trip. Educational programming also became a focus last year with the newly formed diversity committee sponsoring activities during Black History Month and Women’s History Month. The group also sponsored Eastman’s first sexual awareness week.

Thoms hopes that this year’s SA will have an even better year than last. “I hope that we can not only get more students to become involved with our monthly events and activities, I hope that the group will do many more service projects in an effort to impact our local community,” Thoms said. “Far too often, we forget there is an entire city outside these two blocks in downtown Rochester.”

Thoms’ hopes seem to be resonating with student organizations such as Phi Mu Alpha, Sigma Alpha Iota and Mu Phi Epsilon already planning community service projects. Additionally, the Students’ Association Council is planning a fall carnival for later this month. While it may seem that the 16 or so elected members of the Students’ Association Council have everything under control, Thoms stresses that it is important that as many students as possible become involved with the Students’ Association.

“The more students that take an active role in voicing their opinions about the good and the bad of student life, the better chance we have to provide an environment that is beneficial to all students,” Thoms said.

The Students’ Association Council meets every Thursday night in Director’s Dining at 9:30 p.m. If you are interested, feel free to stop by and find out exactly what happens to your $120.

Haynes can be reached at

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