Committee now awaits fees pleas

JP Leider

Student Services Fees are the lifeblood of many student organizations on campus.

Each year groups requesting fees demonstrate to the Student Services Fees Committee the rhyme and reason behind their requests.

On Saturday the full Student Organizations Committee met and deliberated the worthiness of the 31 student groups that requested money this year.

The initial recommendations from the committee, to be published today, would allocate about $1.4 million in Student Services Fees for student organizations.

While the Student Organizations Committee recommended funding more than 80 percent of the requests, several organizations will take a considerable hit in funding come fall semester if the committeeís recommendations are adhered to.

Ten organizations were recommended to receive at least 30 percent less money than requested.

Under the committeeís initial recommendations, three organizations would receive no money for 2006-2007. Eight organizations would receive full funding.

Many of the recommended cuts were in the form of less money for grants.

Last year, the fees committee issued a resolution stating that cultural centers and non-student government organizations should not receive Student Service Fees money for dispensing grants.

But some student organizations apparently didnít get the memo and applied for more grant money this year. Fees committee members voted to consider and appropriately award money this year but to cut future grant requests.

Jose Velasquez, president of the Minnesota International Student Association, said he had not heard about the resolution.

ìItís very stupid, in a way. A lot of the smaller groups really depend on an organization like us to be able to fund their events,” he said.

Under the recommendations, the association would not get all $20,000 requested for grants.

Committee members cited the lack of a funding tracking system as a main reason for the cut.

Velasquez said records exist but the committee didnít request records for the fees presentation, and hasnít asked for such a list.

While the committeeís deliberations are open to the public, few representatives from fees-requesting student groups attended.

But when Aaron Solem arrived to find his organizationís request had already been considered and wasnít allowed to address any questions, he wasnít too happy.

Solemís organization, Students for a Conservative Voice, would be funded about $13,000 to $17,000 less than requested under the initial recommendations.

Solem, who has served on the committee, berated members when they refused to reconsider his organizationís request.

ìTo address discrepancies, groups are allowed to speak,” he said. ìWe were not allowed to speak.”

Solem said the issue is inertia, and once the fees committee ìgets something in its head,” it will keep going with that idea.

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Fees-requesting groups have several ways to petition for a change in recommendations. They may attend public hearings this week, request a meeting with the fees committee and, should all else fail, appeal to Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for Student Affairs.

The neutrality challenge

Challenges to fees committee recommendations mainly have come as accusations that committee members lack neutrality.

Even after revising the process and selecting members from a larger applicant pool, in coming weeks committee leaders and University administration might have to deal with allegations that members werenít neutral.

During the discussion of the Graduate and Professional Student Assemblyís request, committee members Mufaddal Baxamusa and Claire Shin, who are graduate students affiliated with GAPSA, sometimes advocated for and spoke about GAPSA from a graduate studentís perspective.

The two students abstained from voting on GAPSAís request, which saw a $4,000, or 1 percent, decrease from the request.

Student Organizations Committee Chairman Henry Hewes, the only other graduate student on the committee, said their perspectives were valid, as they are students.

He said that although the discussion progressed further than he would have liked, he did stop the specific line of discussion before it became a problem.

In another instance, Baxamusa said, he was biased against MISA, the group considered at the time, and that it would be ìfine” by him should the group receive nothing.

Hewes, who voted only once in the case of a tie, said personal opinions must be ìleft at the door,” and that he trusts the committee will make neutral decisions.

Hewes said he hopes groups appeal. ìI would advise (student organizations) itís not a final decision,” he said. ìItís a dialogue process; now weíre waiting for response from them.”