Late student fee applications

Paul Freeman

Last week the Student Services Fees Committee overwhelmingly voted to deny four groups student funds. The Graduate and Professional Student Association (GAPSA), the Minnesota International Student Association (MISA), Bharat and the Somali Student Association will receive zero dollars for academic year 2010-11. The reason for this action is that each group failed to turn in its fees request applications on time. The fees committee has received pressure from student activity administrators to overlook this rule. I feel the situation, and our actions, deserve public explanation. The most basic rule of the student fees process is the deadline for turning in the application. The University of Minnesota Student Fees Handbook and the Student Union & Activities Web site lists the final date applications will be accepted. Groups looking to apply for student fees must also attend mandatory informational meetings in the fall where the student fees timeline is discussed and reiterated multiple times. Applications are available for over two months before the deadline. Truly, students are provided with every opportunity to meet the deadline. When they fail to do so, it is not the system that has failed them; it is themselves. The handbook section titled âÄúGeneral ProceduresâÄù states: âÄúOrganizations and departments making requests must submit standardized budget request forms to the Fees Committee for review by the specified deadline.âÄù The Handbook section titled âÄúMinimum Requirements for Applying for Student Service FeesâÄù creates an even more specific rule: âÄúAll groups applying for student fees must comply with all deadlines established by the Student Service Fees Committee. Requests for exceptions must be submitted in writing and received at least two weeks prior to the deadline for submission. Exceptions require approval of the Student Service Fees adviser and the chair of the Senate Committee on Student Affairs Fees Subcommittee.âÄù The Student Fees Task Force that wrote the rule and the University regents who adopted it have created the only exception to application deadline. By creating a detailed approval process to extend the deadline, the students and the University have already rejected the notion that there can be any other way to extend the deadline. Here it is not better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. The deadline can only be extended by asking for permission âÄî two weeks in advance. Compliance with the deadline is essential. Allowing certain privileged groups to skirt the deadline would be unfair to all other groups in the student fees process. Allowing late applications would set a dangerous precedent. How long would the grace period last? Which groups would be subject to this grace period? Already we are seeing fallout. As of Feb. 1, GAPSA has appealed the decision of the committee to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart. In their letter to Rinehart and the Fees Committee, GAPSA âÄúaccept[s] full responsibility for the … submission of the fees request.âÄù First of all, âÄúaccepting full responsibilityâÄù means nothing when one is not prepared to accept the consequences of their (in)action. Continuing, GAPSA has asked âÄúan exception be made based on [the] organizationâÄôs impact to the university community.âÄù In a process that is supposed to be representative and viewpoint neutral, for the administration to make an exception for a groupâÄôs clear violation of policy, based on the organizationâÄôs perceived impact, is nothing less than favoritism. The rules must apply equally to all groups, regardless of size, scope or good intentions. Of course, left out in all of this is the little-known fact that no official appeals policy exists for applications rejected as invalid. Any âÄúappeals processâÄù is made up by the vice provostâÄôs office as they go along. Students and administrators who are affected by these groupsâÄô inability to follow basic rules should not aim their rage at the Fees Committee. They should blame the student leaders who failed to apply properly and the administration that seeks to provide special treatment through an ad hoc appeals process. Paul Freeman, Student Services Fees Committee