Fees are judged by a jury of peers;

Rebecca Czaplewski

The fate of the $50 million Coffman Union renovation lies with the 13 student members of the student services fees committee. And their responsibility to decide the outcome of the proposed renovation and allocate $14.8 million in student services fees is not taken lightly.
Coffman Union officials are asking for $45 million of student services fees to pay for the renovation project. This would raise student services fees in $30 increments per year for the next three years. Student fees are currently $480.69 per year. By the 2001-02 school year the renovation would raise fees to $570.69 per year.
The job of the fees committee “is a lot of responsibility for students,” said Hardy Jackson, fees committee chairman. “Students rarely get a chance for so much power and control.”
The student services fees committee, which is made up of three staff members and the 13 students, decides the amount that each of the 23 fees-receiving student organizations get each year. The three staff members advise the students on the committee; they don’t vote on the allocation.
The selection process for the fees committee began in early November with an announcement for applicants through advertisements and campus-wide e-mails. All fees-paying students were encouraged to apply.
A student members selection committee, made up of four members chosen by the presidents of the Minnesota Student Association and the Graduate and Professional Student Association, chose the members of the fees committee. These four members of the selection committee shouldn’t have involvement with MSA, GAPSA or other fees-receiving groups.
“Very few ties to MSA or GAPSA help eliminate conflicts of interest,” said Vicki Larson, fees committee adviser for Coffman Union.
The 13 students chosen for the fees committee are then divided into three sub-committees. While students on the committee can be involved in fees-receiving organizations, they aren’t allowed to serve on the committee that discusses their respective group’s fees proposal.
Most students on the fees committee are or have been active in student organizations. Past MSA President Helen Phin saw the chance to serve on the fees committee as a way to view organizations from a different perspective.
“Through my involvement in other organizations, I had experienced their side,” Phin said. “But not the fees side of it.”
Fees committee members, who do not receive payment, average about seven hours of involvement per week during winter quarter. Fees requests from organizations are submitted in early January followed by roughly three weeks of the organizations’ presentations.
After fees presentations, the sub-committees deliberate and make their fees level recommendations to the full committee. Those recommendations are then deliberated on by the full committee on Feb. 16, which might or might not agree with the sub-committee’s recommendation and rationale.
“That helps safeguard against one small group having the only say,” Larson said.
The full committee’s recommendations are then brought to the student body during public hearings, which will take place Feb. 24 through Feb. 26. Larson added that funding level recommendations sometimes change because of the public hearings. After the public hearings, the full committee will make its final decision on Feb. 27.
To most fees committee members, the fact that only students make the decision on how their fees are spent is one of the most interesting and important aspects of this process.
“We are a very big part of where change and involvement can occur,” said Julien Kubesh, fees committee member.
Jackson stressed the fact that students decide where their fees money goes, not the University.
If the University mandated where the fees went, “it would be kind of like Mom and Dad telling you what to do,” Jackson said.