Committee hears fees requests

Bryce Haugen

The annual fight for a piece of the Student Services Fees pie continues this week.

Forty University organizations have asked for approximately $22.7 million from the Student Services Fees Committee, which could make next year’s student fees the highest yet. This school year, students each gave $275.79 per semester in Students Services Fees, totaling more than $22 million.

Several student groups presented their fees requests to the committee Friday. Committee members will hear from the rest of the fees-requesting groups by Monday, before they decide how much student money each group should receive.

The presentations benefit everybody, said Steve Wang, Student Services Fees Committee chairman. He said the sessions, which are limited to a half hour, give groups time to explain their requests and answer the committee’s questions.

“It’s really the only time we get to talk with them one on one,” he said.

Thirty-one student groups and nine administrative groups requested Student Services Fees this year.

To streamline the process, the fees committee is divided into two groups. The four-member Administrative Units Committee addresses the mostly larger administrative requests, and the nine-member Student Groups Committee, led by Wang, deals with student groups.

Though the bulk of fees money goes to administrative groups, including the student unions, recreational sports

and Boynton Health Service,

requests from student groups frequently lead to heated debate.

Last year, the Student Services Fees Committee denied the African Student Association’s first-ever fees request. In their final report, committee members said the student group should be able to fund its $12,000 request through fund raising and grants.

That’s not cutting it, said association President Wilfried Zehourou, whose group is back this year with a pared-down request.

“They should just give us a chance,” he said. “If we fail, by all means, remove our fees Ö It seems this one meeting decides everything for the next year for your group,” he said.

Three fees-requesting groups – the University’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, the All-Campus Elections Commission and Institute of Technology Student Publications – didn’t apply for funds last year.

IT Student Publications senior editor Nate Johnson said

a funding surplus last year

made fees funds unnecessary for the group.

Several student groups, such as the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and Minnesota Student Association, asked for less money than last year. But many groups upped their requests.

Students for Family Values President Brian Edstrom said his group – the only conservative fees-receiving group – requested $83,000 to fund a radio show, bring in nationally known speakers and hire a part-time staff person. The group received $15,000 last year, after requesting nearly $50,000.

“We’re just trying to expand the marketplace of ideas,” Edstrom said. “Right now, the University is subsidizing some viewpoints more than others.”

The Minnesota Daily also requested an increase.

Daily President Caitlin Madigan said the organization wants to establish an audio-visual department for broadcast journalism students. The group, which last year received the most fees of any student group, switched to the Administrative Units Committee this year.

This committee is accustomed to reviewing large budgets, Madigan said.

“We have a budget that’s pretty big Ö so they’ll ask different questions than the (other committee) would ask a student group,” she said.

The fees committee will publish its initial recommendations Feb. 22. In early March, it will finalize its decisions after public hearings. The University administration and Board of Regents can overrule the fees committee’s decisions.