Fees committee reviews allocations, funds SLC

by Tom Ford

Fees committee members amended several funding recommendations Saturday during daylong deliberations.

By a three-vote majority, the committee recommended more than $82,000 for the Student Legislative Coalition, which was initially denied funding.

The committee recommended fees increases for Twin Cities Student Unions, the Minnesota Student Association and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly’s social events fund.

In addition, the committee voted to fund the Student Dispute Resolution Center at $96,265 but again delayed a recommendation for the Minnesota International Student Association. Decisions for the two groups were postponed last week because of confusion over their budget figures.

Members also called for reversing the funding mechanisms for groups that receive special assessment fees, such as the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. Some members of the groups affected said they were concerned their funding would drop dramatically.

Matt Gauthier, an SLC organizer, said he was relieved about receiving any amount of money above zero for the coalition.

“I believe (the recommendation change) will get us out of danger,” Gauthier said.

The SLC attracted several advocates from the committee.

Kevin Ehlert said refusing funds to SLC would prove detrimental to the entire University system.

“If we completely cut the group, University campuses will lose a very valuable voice at the Legislature,” he said.

But Doug Karle, a fees committee member, said University administration and partisan student groups perform the same functions as SLC, and funding the coalition provides no investment return.

“There was no substantial or crucial things they had accomplished,” Karle said.

Besides the funding change, the committee recommended SLC, along with MPIRG and GAPSA’s event fund, switch to neutral check-off funding systems.

Currently, those groups receive fees through a negative check-off mechanism in the University’s registration system.

Under this mechanism, students are assessed fees for those groups unless they refuse funding by marking a check-off box. At any time during the semester, students can get their fees refunded.

Tyler Richter said the new system – which would charge students only if they approve of the funding – would make students more aware of what groups they are supporting.

Karle said the current system often tricks students into funding groups with whom they don’t necessarily agree.

But Rachel Boeke, an MPIRG state board member, said changing to a neutral system would devastate the group.

Boeke said under the current system students generally don’t pay attention to the option and don’t check off a decision. She said this wouldn’t change with a neutral mechanism, and as a result MPIRG funding would be slashed.

Committee Chairman Tim Lee said it is uncertain the recommendations would stand because University Vice President Robert Jones last year accepted a recommendation to maintain the current system for several years.

After discussion, MSA funding increased from $65,000 to $85,500.

MSA elections typically attract only about a 5 percent turnout, and committee member Marty Andrade said he has no idea what the group does, a sentiment he said is generally shared by those outside the organization.

“They haven’t addressed whether they represent the student body rather than just 5 percent of students,” Andrade said.

But fees committee member Rose Brewer said she was amazed at the opposition to MSA.

“I don’t understand why the most democratic voice on campus is being undermined,” Brewer said.

By more than $260,000, the committee also raised funding for student unions’ capital request, which would largely bankroll depreciation of new furnishings in Coffman Union.

But funding for TCSU’s other two requests didn’t change, and recommendation levels fall far below the amounts requested.

Bob Gindorff said he and many other fees committee members believe TCSU has enough money in reserves to cover expenses of re-opening Coffman, and fees increases are unwarranted in light of impending tuition hikes.

Following discussion of TCSU, Mike Berthelson, who works in the University’s Office of Budget and Finance, said TCSU will have no money to operate Coffman and the renovated building won’t be able to open if the proposed amount stands.

A series of public hearings will be held on campus this week for further discussion. Final recommendations will be set after another day of deliberations Saturday.


Tom Ford welcomes comments at [email protected]