Deadline extended for student fees committee applicants

Seth Woehrle

Plagued in the past by low student involvement and questions of neutrality, the selection of a new Student Services Fees Committee, which provided over $17 million to student groups last year, suffered another setback yesterday.

A computer glitch knocked out the network at 840 Washington Ave., the building where the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly’s Web site, gapsa.stu.umn.edu, is hosted. It prevented applicants from filling out the committee membership application form online.

The Monday afternoon deadline was pushed back to Wednesday, and the Web site is expected to be running by Tuesday morning.

As of Friday, the selection committee – staffed by four students chosen by GAPSA and the Minnesota Student Association – had received only five applications, short of the minimum of 17, according to Vicki Larson, the University’s adviser to the fees process.

Larson could not say how many applications had been taken over the weekend or in the hours before the Web site dropped offline but said most come in on the last day.

“There was a flurry of last-minute activity (Monday) morning from what I hear,” said current fees committee chairman and GAPSA president Phillip Cole.

Cole said several current committee members would be reapplying for next year but he would not because of his graduation.

In the past, the application deadline for the fees committee has been extended due to small or homogenic applicant pools.

A May 2000 GAPSA and MSA document calling for fees process reform noted only 30 fees committee applications are received each year out of nearly 40,000 fee-paying students.

The document called the disparity “inadequate and unacceptable.”

Because of the lackluster student involvement, allegations of bias and other concerns, a Student Services Fees Task Force and a Student Senate subcommittee have been hammering out a new process for selecting committee members, said Cole.

Possible changes to the process are at least a year away and will not affect the 2002 session.

The current process starts with the four-member selection committee choosing 13 finalists for the fees committee along with at least four ranked alternates.

The finalists appear before MSA and GAPSA, where each group can remove up to two. If a finalist is rejected, the next-ranked alternate takes his or her place.

After MSA and GAPSA approve the “slate,” the fees committee is finalized, and the session begins after winter break.

MSA President Dan Kelly said he thought previous years’ lack of applicants was due to ignorance about the power the fees committee holds.

“There’s been a couple opportunities to get the word out to the entire campus, and people still aren’t applying,” said Kelly. “I think people don’t understand the role or it just falls off peoples’ radar screens.”