Officials to decide MPIRG funding

by Raiza Beltran

The committee charged with funding 31 student groups only funded 30 on Saturday, leaving the fate of the Minnesota Public Research Interest Group’s funding up to University officials to decide.
In a surprise decision, the Student Services Fees Committee decided not to vote on MPIRG’s budget request because of pressure from allegations of conflicts of interest of some of its members.
The fees committee also transferred a $40,000 grant program to the Campus Involvement Center and granted the initial fees-subcommittee recommendations for the Africana Student Cultural Center and University-Young Women.
While a number of student organizations, including La Raza and the Queer student cultural centers and Crisis Point, received little attention, other campus groups were scrutinized and contested arduously by fees members.
Providing nearly half of the attendees for the three public hearings, MPIRG members commended the fees committee for their funding recommendations. Because of Saturday’s 11-3 fees-committee vote, MPIRG will again need to lobby their cause to University officials since the committee members felt they could not consider the group’s request fairly.
“I see no way in which we can reach an appropriate decision on MPIRG’s fees request with these threats hanging over us,” said fees committee member Dave Olschki. “It doesn’t matter if we approve or disapprove the fees request because the legitimacy of our decision has already been corrupted.”
MPIRG intends to bring its case to the March 14 administration hearings where the fees-committee recommendations will be reviewed.
“We don’t really know what (the fees-committee’s decision) means,” said Rachel Boeke, organizing intern for MPIRG. “But we’ll go forward organizing and go to the administrative hearing and show student support.”
The fees committee recommended that the Minnesota Student Association receive $15,000 next year, $5,000 more than the committee’s initial Feb. 26 recommendations. However, the committee also moved the $40,000 Diversity Events Fund from MSA auspices to Campus Involvement Center control.
“The money is no good just sitting there,” said Rick Schibur, a University budget administrator and fees-committee member. “There are other student voices as well, and CIC is a valid student voice.”
However, Jason Ruiz, MSA’s office manager, said the committee should not punish MSA by taking away the grants.
“We made every effort to show we can handle the grants,” Ruiz said. “It’s going to be the students’ loss.”
Diversity issues that prevailed in public hearings March 1-3 were again brought up in the discussions for Africana and U-YW. Africana’s funding was kept at $35,610 while U-YW received $30,767, a $3,000 increase.
“(U-YW) provides opportunity to over half the people on campus and represents all forms of oppression,” said Sharon Olson, a fees-committee member.
However, fees-committee ember Sabeen Altaf said Africana has not shown fiscal responsibility in the past and proposed to eliminate the group’s funding.
“We need to take a step back,” said Altaf. “We’re losing sight that all groups need to earn the fees. … We need to uphold the standards for all fees-receiving groups.”
Many of the fees-committee members defended the initial funding recommendation. Tom Koehnen said eliminating Africana’s funding is too drastic and would eliminate all African and African-American programming on campus.
“It’s obvious there’s a political agenda,” said Ebele Onwueme, a journalism senior and Africana member. “The whole process is skewed. Certain members have something against Africana.”
Administrative hearings will be held March 14 from 12 to 2 p.m.