Fees allotments bring angst, relief for groups

A quarter of student groups that requested fees got the full amount. Eight groups will likely get nothing.

by Raya Zimmerman

After two rounds of public hearings and a final deliberation by the Student Service Fees Committee, final recommendations for student groups arrived Monday with rationales.
In response to last monthâÄôs initial recommendations, several University of Minnesota student groups were left unsatisfied.
Of the 56 groups that applied for student service fees through the student groups committee for the 2011-12 academic year, excluding two groups for which funding is still pending, eight will receive no funding at all.
Black Student Union president Arsenio Ward said the final recommendation, which grants no money to the group, was unfair.
According to the SSFCâÄôs rationale, one of the groupâÄôs shortfalls was that it âÄúfailed to produce records for multiple transactions.âÄù
BSU requested $65,000. After receiving an initial recommendation of $0, they attended both public hearings that took place earlier this month to contest the decision.
Ward said BSU tried to explain the discrepancies of the audit. He admitted the main error was not having invoices for some of the groupsâÄô charges and no receipt documentation. The group has implemented a new financial reporting system to catch future discrepancies.
âÄúThere were other student groups who have had similar discrepancies and still received funding,âÄù Ward said.
He emphasized BSUâÄôs importance on campus:
âÄúBSU provides a small community for general members to have a safe place where they feel more comfortable among peers of their similar background,âÄù Ward said. âÄúThey get to see their culture and themselves represented at BSU that they wouldnâÄôt get anywhere else.âÄù
The group plans to go through the fees appeals process, which will take place March 30 to April 5.
Another group that will not see any funding next year is the Persian Student Organization of Minnesota, which requested $35,430. The groupâÄôs president, Mehrdad Hairani-Esfahani, said the fees committee âÄúmisunderstood the intentionâÄù of the groupâÄôs events.
âÄúOur events are part of the cultural events like Al-Madinah and MISA,âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôre doing the same thing but weâÄôre not getting the same funding.âÄù
The group also requested a follow-up meeting after they received their initial recommendation, but the fees committee denied private hearings and instead offered two public ones.
The Minnesota Student Association saw a better outcome, as they received $130,165, $51,000 more from what they were initially recommended, and only $10,400 less than they originally requested.
Earlier this month, MSA caught errors that were made by Deloitte and Touche, the company the University uses to audit student groups. MSA President Sarah Shook had said she was âÄúconfidentâÄù that her group would âÄúget these errors sorted out.âÄù
Shook and Carrie Nelson, MSAâÄôs chief financial officer, compiled a 99-page report with audit errors made by Deloitte and Touche. They also included the emails they exchanged with the auditing company and provided detailed explanations addressing each of SSFCâÄôs concerns in the initial recommendations.
Shook said the fees committee was âÄúunderstandingâÄù and âÄúcooperativeâÄù about the process.
She said the audit process, when no errors occur, is a benefit to the student body to know where their money is going.
âÄúOn one hand, itâÄôs reassuring that student groups have their budgets carefully examined,âÄù she said. âÄúThe downside is the amount of time spent communicating with Deloitte and also how student groups are punished by mistakes made by previous student group leadership.âÄù
Roughly one-quarter of groups that applied for funding received exactly what they requested.
The Black Graduate and Professional Students Association, BGAPSA, is walking away from the process with all of their requested funding, $8,661.
Founded in 2003, BGAPSA is a group of students that build community among black faculty, staff and undergraduates of similar backgrounds and interests.
Illenin Kondo, president of the group and an economics graduate student, said this yearâÄôs proposal to the committee explained exactly where their funding has been allocated.
Kondo said that if groups want to get their requested funding, it is vital for their current leaders to be involved in the process for the next coming school year. The efforts he has made, he said, will ensure that next yearâÄôs group will have fees, even if he chooses to step down from his position.
Kondo demonstrated his point by comparing his groupâÄôs efforts to BSUâÄôs. He said BSUâÄôs group this year is being penalized for mistakes that last yearâÄôs leaders made.
âÄúThe next class hasnâÄôt even arrived âĦ what are we telling them?âÄù Kondo said.
He said the committeeâÄôs final recommendation to grant BSU no funding at all denounces the mission of BSU and may imply that the group itself is not worth any funding.
âÄúIf you have to punish a group, was that the right punishment?âÄù he said.
The March 30 edition of the Minnesota Daily will feature an advertisement with all the final recommendations for student groups.