The University at Buffalo's recently imposed $50-a-semester campus bus fee for students is legal, a judge ruled Thursday.
Quashing a suit filed by the school's Undergraduate Student Association, State Supreme Court Justice Vincent E. Doyle said school officials acted properly in imposing the fee Oct. 1 to cope with last-minute state budget cuts.
"The ultimate purpose of the plan was to maintain the excellence of the university's academic programs during the fiscal crisis, rather than canceling courses," Doyle said.
Doyle told attorneys for the Undergraduate Student Association that student claims about a "breach" of the school's "implied contract" with them not to raise fees without negotiations was something the students would have to take up in the state Court of Claims, where suits against the state are filed.
Doyle, who held a hearing Monday, also rejected a bid by the students for a court order forcing UB to refund more than $270,000 in fares collected this semester.
Pamela L. Neubeck, the student group's attorney, said she will poll student government leaders to determine "what they really want to do" in terms of either appealing Doyle's ruling or taking the case to the Court of Claims.
She said she was having a difficult time contacting student government officials about Doyle's ruling because of the Christmas holiday and because this is an examination period at the university.
In an 11-page decision, Doyle noted that Assistant State Attorney General Andrew Lipkind correctly noted during Monday's hearing that all UB catalogs for undergraduate and graduate students issued before the current semester warned that fees could go up or be imposed without warning.
Doyle said the $50 bus fee was imposed after the state decided in June to cut $9.3 million from UB's current school year budget. UB officials said the bus service cost the school about $1 million a year, the judge noted.
During the hearing, Miss Neubeck argued that UB attracted students with the free bus service and noted that bus service is necessary because students are forced to take courses at both the school's South and North campuses, three miles apart.
For next semester, UB officials are considering replacing the $50 bus fee with a broader $50-a-semester "transit" fee, which would cover campus bus fares, parking fees, computer-time fees, laboratory fees and graduation fees to meet state budget cutbacks.