Group asks for less money

GAPSA will present its 2005-06 request to a student fees subcommittee today.

by Bryce Haugen

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly has trimmed some fat from its budget but will maintain important services, group leaders said.

GAPSA leaders will present their approximately $380,000 2005-06 fees request to a Student Services Fees subcommittee today. The group is requesting approximately $101,000 more in fees than last year. GAPSA leaders said this year’s proposal is frugal, yet it sustains services for the 17,546 University graduate and professional students the group represents.

Cutting the fat

In the last few years, GAPSA – and its budget – has grown quickly, said Karen Buhr, the group’s executive vice president.

“We feel there was a lot of excess,” she said.

Last year, a fees subcommittee recommended severely cutting GAPSA’s 2004-05 funding partly because of what the subcommittee report called “exorbitant” spending on food and alcohol. But the subcommittee revised its decision following a series of public meetings and granted GAPSA $450,000, only $30,000 less than its request.

GAPSA responded to last year’s recommendations by trimming its food budget. It also stopped serving free alcohol, which a new University policy said can no longer be purchased with fees money. Additionally, the group eliminated a full-time staff position and secured free cable and rent space.

“We took (the committee’s) requests very seriously,” Buhr said. “We’re hoping that that will help us in the fees process.”

But fees committee Chairman Steve Wang said GAPSA’s last request will not be considered this year, except for background information.

“We look at what they plan to use the money for this year, and then we base our decision off of that,” he said.

By considering the fees committee’s requests, GAPSA set a good example for other groups, said Jerry Rinehart, University associate vice provost for student affairs, who oversees the fees process.

“They are very conscious of the increases in tuition and fees and all the other financial commitments students face,” he said.

If approved, the fees request will save each graduate student a few dollars per semester.

That’s nothing to get too excited about, said physics graduate student Matthew Strait, who said he dislikes fees. Strait, like his colleagues, paid $12.12 in fees this semester for GAPSA. But, he said, “If they’re going to do the same job using less money, I’d be happy.”

Protecting programs

GAPSA fees are spent in a variety of ways, including operational expenses and event

promotion. The group also directs many fees dollars to its 10-member councils.

Buhr said GAPSA plans to maintain funding for the councils, which each support dozens of organizations.

“They can really address some of those day-to-day concerns that we don’t have the ability to do,” she said.

One GAPSA member council, the University Law Council, funds 80 groups with GAPSA fees money.

GAPSA President Abu Jalal said funding for the group’s most popular and effective initiatives, such as the grant for student travel, also escaped cuts.

Instead of asking for less money, GAPSA should have redirected the money to increase grants, said Charlie Blackwell, the Black Graduate and Professional Students Association president, who has used GAPSA grants to fund his group’s small events.

“$12.50 (in fees) is not a bad number,” he said. “You waste that going to the movies with a date.”