Student Reps voice concern over fees, campus safety

The Student Representatives to the Board of Regents presented their report to the Board on Friday.

by Taryn Wobbema

in the levying of fees on students and improving the perception of safety on campuses were two issues student representatives to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents addressed Friday in their annual fall report. The report examined the list of fees that comprise a minimum of 20 percent of the cost of education. The University ranks fifth in the Big Ten for the highest mandatory fees imposed on students, according to the report. Julie Tonneson , budget director in the Office of Budget and Finance , appeared before the BoardâÄôs Finance and Operations Committee on Thursday to report that the University is currently in the midst of a total analysis of fees assessed to students. Fees have grown in complexity throughout the years, Tonneson said. The analysis is meant to make the process more clear as well as evaluate whether all fees are in compliance with University policy. Jennifer McCabe, chairwoman of the student representatives, said some fees are easily understood now, but many are vague, raising the issue of the feeâÄôs credibility among students. The student services fee finances non-instructional programs and activities, such as student groups, and is set by a committee made up of mostly students. McCabe said the involvement of students in the process of setting this fee combined with the publication of how the fees are distributed lead to a higher level of understanding of this particular levy. However, the student report identifies fees that vary between colleges and programs within colleges through technology and course fees. In the College of Liberal Arts , students pay $105 each semester for a technology fee. Students in the Carlson School of Management pay $475 each semester for a fee of the same name. According the report, the process of determining this fee and information concerning how it is used are not easily available to students. Technology fees are determined independently in each college. Students should see tangible results of the fees they pay, Regent Richard Beeson said Thursday, adding that over time the University should attempt to clean up fees. This may not lower the cost, he said, but it could make them more understandable. Such tangible fees includes the capital enhancement fee established by the Board of Regents in 2008 to pay for the $59 million expansion of the Recreation Center on the Twin Cities campus. Students also pay $12.50 each semester to help fund TCF Bank Stadium. Student Representative Aditya Srinath , who sits on the Finance and Operations Committee, questioned how students will be involved in any changes made to fees or procedures associated with how they are calculated. Tonneson said she did not know the answer to that, but it would likely depend on the recommendations analysts receive after consulting with various groups. Student representatives also voiced concern over the student perception of safety on campus. The report cited statistical evidence that shows a 2008 decrease in crime, particularly burglary, vehicle thefts, alcohol citations and sexual offenses. âÄúHowever, as students, we have noticed that our peers feel less safe on campus, and this has a potential to have a negative long term effect on our campus culture,âÄù the report stated. McCabe said the representatives would like to see more follow up with e-mailed safety alerts so that students are also informed if criminals are caught. Increased lighting in off-campus neighborhoods, more student engagement in neighborhoods and an increase in Code Blue Emergency Telephones would add to a sense of security at the University. University President Bob Bruininks agreed that taking steps to improve the perception of campus safety is important. âÄúStatistics are moving in the right direction, but perception is lagging,âÄù he said. However, he said there could be better prevention strategies than adding emergency phones.