Fees group weighs options

by Liala Helal

An advisory committee reforming the Student Services Fees process decided to seek future committee members from college boards Thursday.

While deciding to seek the help of college boards, the committee also decided not to reserve seats for those nominees. Committee members said the plan could bring in a broader variety of students.

“It’s a fine idea, as long as college boards know they can nominate people outside of their membership,” said community adviser Paul Nelson, who observed the meeting.

Richard Orr, advisory committee member, said by involving college boards, the committee runs into the danger of questioning whoever can nominate applicants.

The advisory committee and observers discussed creating a central student-group support area in Coffman Union that would provide resources such as faxes, copy machines and computers to minimize student groups’ requests for operational funds. The committee ultimately decided to shelve the idea until next year to work out the details of such a plan.

The advisory committee also decided not to hold All-Campus Elections for fees committee members. Campus elections already face low voter turnout, and “something as time specific as the fees committee probably would be even more difficult to get enough votes for,” said Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs.

Amy Jo Pierce, former Minnesota Student Association vice president, said MSA and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly passed a resolution indicating they do not want to lose any power they currently have in the fees process.

University student and former MSA executive board member Aaron Solem, who attended the meeting as an observer, said he would like to see MSA have less power in the process.

“MSA is not a viewpoint-neutral organization – they are fees-funded, and it’s a shame that Jerry Rinehart is going to uphold that,” he said, referring to Rinehart’s support of MSA and GAPSA involvement in choosing fees selectors.

Bill Gilles, national director of Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, observed the meeting and said he doesn’t blame MSA and GAPSA for passing such a resolution.

“It’s important for them to be involved because they represent the student voice,” he said.

He said he would also like to see more “solutions with the students in mind,” but said he was impressed that students were discussing things among themselves rather than being dominated by administrators.

Steve Wang, student fees chairman and member of the advisory committee, said members are trying to advertise the fees committee openings in general.

“We’re trying to get more students involved, and if it’s a lethargic student body, then we can’t change that,” he said.

Solem said getting more students involved is “being treated as more of a solution than it really is.” The committee should focus on creating objective standards for fees committee members to follow, he said.

“They should be striving to make objective, equally enforced criteria that will make the results the same whether 15 or 150 people apply,” he said.

The issue of how to deal with large cuts or increases to administrative units will be further discussed at the next meeting as well as refusable or refundable fees. The committee will also discuss the working committee’s organization. The meeting will be held from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 11. The location has not yet been decided.

At least two additional meetings are scheduled before the decisions are finalized.

“We have to get it done so we can have clarity by the time we get into fall semester, but we’re not going to try to jump prematurely to closure,” Rinehart said.