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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
Best photos of June '24
Published June 23, 2024

Fees committee’s proposals are irresponsible, reckless

In most cases, the committee voted unanimously to deny nearly every audience member the chance to make a point.

After the Student Services Fees Committee’s first two rounds of the fees-allocation process, I am extremely disappointed with its recommendations and the selection process itself. Funding for nearly every student group was reduced in spite of nearly universal requests for increases.

The selection process is flawed because there is no guarantee of a dialogue between student group representatives and committee members after the initial recommendations are determined. After witnessing the illogical rationales for across-the-board funding cuts, I realized that only through an open dialogue between the two sides will things change.

Rather than allowing audience members to express their opinions during the second round of the process, in most cases, the committee voted unanimously to deny nearly every audience member the chance to make a point. This was in spite of the fact that the committee’s decisions were often based on misinformation. The committee members have overstepped their bounds and require oversight to prevent this from happening in the future.

I will use the Black Student Union, an organization to which I belong, as an example. The union’s funding was cut 9 percent, and the African Student Association was denied funding altogether. The fees committee justified cutting the union’s funds by claiming that the manner in which we proposed to spend the money was inappropriate.

The Black Student Union requested a funding increase partly to buy more computers for our office and lounge. Our members made this request, and computers are a necessity for our office, considering that we have more than 10 office members and only one office computer.

The fees committee also told us that, rather than sponsoring 40 to 50 students to attend the Big 12 Conference on Black Student Government, we should send a smaller delegation of four or five who could brief the rest of the organization about the conference. These two points represent a gross violation of the fees committee’s responsibility.

How we choose to spend our funds is solely the responsibility of our leadership, general members and adviser. The fees committee’s role is to determine if, in past years, student organizations allocated their money in the manner they said they would. If we asked for $50,000, half of which was to be spent on candy bars, our funding request should be denied. Computers and attending a conference benefit not only our members, but the University as a whole by empowering our members with knowledge that would otherwise not be readily available. These costs are reasonable expenditures.

I propose three reforms be implemented. First, fees committee members must be better-trained and have a thorough understanding of their responsibilities. The fees committee process should also have more adviser oversight, which would provide a neutral third party to counter the biases of the committee members and any student organization’s outrageous requests.

Second, the fees committee must represent the ethnic, cultural and political diversity of our

campus. This was not the case this year, as white conservatives who generally oppose student fees were disproportionately represented on the fees committee. We student groups must encourage our leaders and members to apply to be on the committee.

Finally, after the fees committee’s initial recommendations, there must be an opportunity for student organization representatives to engage in a dialogue to clarify any incorrect points and premises that have affected the committee’s recommendations.

The fees committee’s actions thus far have been irresponsible, shortsighted and reckless. How can students complain about our government’s refusal to adequately fund higher education when we do the exact same thing to our cultural organizations and student groups?

Mandla Xaba is the Black Student Union political chairman. He welcomes comments at [email protected]

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