MPIRG presents petition to U administration

Raiza Beltran

Presenting 6,400 signatures from students and faculty members in support of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, the group’s members urged University administration Thursday to finally approve their $148,000 funding request for next year.
The administration hearing, usually seen as a routine procedure in the fees process, became a platform for various student groups’ grievances against the Student Services Fees Committee.
“It’s a little scary if the administration decides to make changes because it is a student-run process,” said Hillary Walters, a Minnesota Student Association representative. “I don’t want to set a precedent when students run to the administration when there are problems, but the fees process has been strongly contested this year.”
More than 70 students, faculty, staff and alumni attended the hearing, which precedes a review of the fund allocations by the Board of Regents and University President Mark Yudof. This year, the fees committee’s recommendations reached $16.5 million — $400,000 more than last year.
McKinley Boston, vice president for student development, Vice Provost Craig Swan and Terry O’Connor from Financial Operations were the three administrators who led the hearings.
Normally, Jane Canney, associate vice president for student development, attends the hearings. Yudof asked Boston to participate after both met with Africana Student Cultural Center student officers who protested the fees process earlier this month.
An administrative task force will review the fees process to assess its effectiveness, Canney said.
“There are outside forces, not created by students, that have worked hard to affect the fees process,” Canney said. “Some of those forces have been preserved by the process in the past years.”
Since the fees committee chose not to vote on MPIRG’s funding in its final deliberations March 4, MPIRG members asked the administration to allow the group to focus its energies on programming instead of the fees process.
“I urge you to finish this and let us get on with what we do best,” said Ryan Barnes, an MPIRG core member and education junior.
Several other fees-receiving groups, including the MSA, Africana and the International Student Travel Center also urged the panel to change the fees committee’s funding decisions.
MSA representatives requested that the administrators examine MSA’s recommended budget of $15,000 and return the Diversity Events Grant to the group, which the fees committee had removed during its deliberations.
MSA speaker Patrick Peterson said the student government will need to eliminate its special-events program and find an additional $64,341 to survive next year.
“We are the link to the chain for student organizations,” said MSA President Ben Bowman. “There is a risk for that link to be broken. I don’t think we should take that risk.”
Criticizing the fees committee and the University community as a whole, Africana members said they are being penalized for rules that do not exist. The fees committee had reduced its final budget recommendation for Africana because of late and incomplete budget requests from the group, although it had no such written policy.
“Africana is the only organization to receive this policy,” said Iyabo Lawal, vice president of Africana.
Although the Board of Regents provided deadlines for late budget-request submissions, Lawal said the fees committee’s political motivation should be questioned.
“There are members of SAFE and (Graduate and Professional Student Association) in the fees committee,” Lawal said. “GAPSA has increased funding.”
Fees committee member Sabeen Altaf said the committee acted professionally and with integrity.
“The entire process this year was very credible,” Altaf said.

Raiza Beltran covers student life and student government and welcomes comments at [email protected]