Revamp fees process, again

Whether committee members like a student group should not affect its funding.

Last year, many felt the fees committees made decisions based on political ideology. Jerry Rinehart, associate vice provost for student affairs, altered some of those decisions, and this year’s fees committee had extra training. Nonetheless, this year’s process ran only marginally better, and Rinehart last week overruled some fees committee decisions. Again.

This process should be run by students, and, as such, Rinehart’s annual intervention is not optimal. Unfortunately, the lack of competent decisions makes it a necessity. As Rinehart himself proposed, we must again re-evaluate the process.

There should be more applicants for the fees committee spots. This year, there were 22 viable applicants for 21 open positions, including alternates. It’s possible these 21 were the best (it’s not an easy task, after all), but we doubt it.

To attract more (and, hopefully, better) people, there must be more incentives to join the fees committee and more publication of what it takes to be selected for it. One possibility would be rewarding the work the fees committee members do with a stipend. The more fees committee members who treat this like their part-time job, the more professionalism and competence the community is likely to see. Also, the Minnesota Student Association, Student Activities Office and University administration must better publicize the openings. Students must be encouraged to apply and informed how to do so.

Reviewing the last two years, one common string runs through both: members with axes to grind. For example, after a comment to the effect that Students for Family Values, a student group, was a “cancer” to be “cut,” it received no money (until Rinehart’s decision reinstated one-third of its request). This type of political and ideological decision-making must stop.

For starters, it is illegal, per recent Supreme Court jurisprudence. More importantly, it is contrary to the mission of student-group funding. The purpose of funding student groups is to enhance the options students have for extracurricular activities. Provided student groups fulfill necessary standards in applying and obey applicable rules, their funding should be based on their needs, the opportunities or services they provide respective to other groups and the funding available.

Allocating Student Services Fees is not easy. It will challenge whoever does it each year. But next year, we need more and better-qualified applicants who will leave their baggage at the door.