Jonathan Frost & Dillon Henwood
PSO membership dues at Stellenbosch University (SU) are causing controversy among inactive participants. Students residing in private accommodation are compelled to pay an annual membership subscription notwithstanding their participation status.
The University states that a PSO is “the organisation that caters for students who do not live in residences in order to allow them a similar social structure to that enjoyed by ‘res’ students [… and] every student in private lodgings shall become a member of the Private Students’ Organisation (PSO) and pay the membership fee”.
The current fee is R321 per annum which is charged to members’ student accounts.
Third-year BEng student, Kara Meyer, contended that non-participating members of PSOs should not have to pay the annual fees and that the University should have less PSOs so that it would only have to cater for members who want to participate.
Furthermore, she claimed that “PSOs do not communicate with their members well enough [and] members have a right to receive information about the organisation they belong to”. Although, Meyer added that “Often, non-participating students have not given it a chance at all and they get angry about something they know nothing about”.
A member of a PSO, who chose to remain anonymous, told Die Matie that “the only communication [he has] had from them is one email in almost three and a half years”.
Primarius of Vesta men’s PSO, Marthinus Van Staden, said “Yes, it’s fair. It’s your choice [to not participate],” on the topic of membership payment by inactive members. He added that, “There would be no way for the PSO to function as an organisation if only active members paid the membership fees.”
According to Minette Sieberhagen, vice-chair of the Prim Committee, the PSO fees are apportioned in seven parts where the majority (63.5%) goes to the house fund and PSO leadership (25.6%). T
he latter includes affiliates such as mentors and house committees. These allocations allegedly contribute directly to the functioning and management of a PSO.
Sieberhagen stated that students should pay membership fees irrespective of their participatory status. “PSOs work very hard to contribute to a holistic student experience while on campus and all students can benefit from participating in their PSOs,” she added.