Final recommendations in

by Bryce Haugen

A University fees committee released its final recommendations Wednesday, prompting relief and distress among some student groups.

Most of the funding decisions for the 31 fees-requesting groups mirrored the Student Services Fees Committee’s initial report. But the 11-member committee changed some recommendations.

After initially granting Students for Family Values $15,000, the committee’s final report calls for no funding for the group. The fees committee also increased funding for the Minnesota International Student Association and the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

The recommendations will now go to Jerry Rinehart, the University’s associate vice provost for student affairs, who can overturn decisions. Rinehart will hold a public hearing March 24 before presenting his recommendations to the Board of Regents in May.

Many student group leaders said they were pleased with the committee’s recommendations.

Saundra Hartmann, the University’s Habitat for Humanity chapter president, said she was ecstatic when she learned the group received its full funding request. Now, she said, the group can increase its visibility on campus.

“We’ve done a lot so far without the fees committee, but this will definitely give a big boost,” she said.

This year, Habitat for Humanity, Voices Merging and the African Student Association received fees recommendations for the first time.

The committee granted Hillel, the Jewish student center at the University, and the Queer Student Cultural Center their full requests, after those groups received funding cuts last year.

Queer Student Cultural Center co-Chairman Robert Olson said the full fees request will allow the group to improve its programming.

“It seems last year’s fees committee was pretty driven by lowering fees; this one seemed to be focused on the merits Ö of the programming,” he said.

In a 5-4 vote, the committee recommended no funding for Students for Family Values. The committee’s majority rationale said it had “(no) confidence that funding of any type will be spent within this organization.”

It also said the small group’s $83,000 request shows fiscal irresponsibility.

Students for Family Values President Brian Edstrom, who is on the Student Services Fees Administrative Units Committee, said the group will appeal to Rinehart. The group is also planning a legal case against the University, Edstrom said.

“The message is the fees process is unconstitutional – the way the University is implementing it,” Edstrom said.

He said the Supreme Court’s decision in University of Wisconsin v. Southworth, which called for “viewpoint neutrality” in fees processes, supports his group’s case.

Fees committee policy also requires members to make “responsible, viewpoint-neutral recommendations.”

The committee seemed overtly biased at Friday’s public deliberations, Edstrom said.

Steve Wang, the Student Organizations Committee chairman, said the committee made good decisions and “acted in a fair manner.”

Edstrom said that regardless of the final fees outcome, the group will survive.

“We’ll still be around, and we’ll still be raising issues,” he said.

Last year, Rinehart granted a reprieve to The Wake student magazine and the department of recreational sports.

Rinehart said he will study all the recommendations before his public hearing. It’s too early to make decisions, he said.

“There are issues that clearly need to be looked at,” he said.

In the final report, the Minnesota International Student Association, one of the University of Minnesota’s largest student groups, received an increase from the committee’s initial recommendation. But the group will still face deep cuts.

The committee’s majority rationale said the group’s poor budget “displays a lack of organization that is alarming for a group as influential and large as MISA.”

Achint Agarwal, the association’s finance secretary, said the cut is a blow to the international student community.

“It’s going to send a mixed message to prospective international students,” he said.