As the semester winds down, members of the Student Services Fees Committee are preparing for a final meeting to reflect on this year’s fees process, in which they recommended $22.7 million in mandatory Student Services Fees for the next academic year.
While many fees-requesting organizations received most or all of their requested funding, several student groups were cut dramatically or defunded entirely.
Eleven of those groups filed appeals to Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for Student Affairs, who makes final recommendations to the Board of Regents.
Unlike past years, when Rinehart reversed several recommendations from the fees committee, he chose to overturn none this year.
“I see my role as to intervene when there are egregious errors in committees’ decisions where they act without viewpoint neutrality,” he said.
Another place he would need to intervene, Rinehart said, is whether it was clear committee members had an agenda and made decisions to further that agenda without regard to the quality of the applying organizations.
“When those kinds of things happen, I need to make sure the process is restored to some kind of wholeness,” he said. “In this case, there were many decisions I thought were unfortunate and would have looked at differently, but I thought the committees on both sides were principled in their work.”
The members of the committee reflected the student perspective on where money should be spent in their recommendations, he said.
“Not all students are going to agree with their decisions, just like I wouldn’t, but there wasn’t anything in the process that suggested to me that it wasn’t a fair process,” he said. “Everybody had a chance.”
Aaron Solem, president of both Students for a Conservative Voice and Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, and a critic of the fees process, said this year’s process is similar to what he’s seen in the past.
“It’s kind of funny – last year Rinehart overturned several (recommendations), especially when administrators complained, but when students issue a bevy of complaints, he tends to look the other way,” Solem said.
The committee this year did not act in a viewpoint-neutral manner and applied standards unequally to different groups, which needs to change for the process to be fixed, he said.
“To overturn the recommendations would be a tacit admission that they got it wrong from (last summer’s advisory committee) and are going to continue to get it wrong until something changes,” he said.
Both of his groups filed for appeals to the final fees recommendations.
Christopher Oudavanh, treasurer for the Asian-American Student Union, said there was poor communication from the beginning of the fees process, especially regarding a resolution that eliminated some student organizations’ eligibility to receive money to disburse cultural grants.
The cut to cultural grants will severely limit the Asian-American Student Union and its affiliates’ programming, he said.
Oudavanh said his organization will discuss assimilating the smaller groups from the union’s general assembly so they would be eligible for programming funding through the fees process.
Mike Grewe, co-chairperson for the Queer Student Cultural Center, said the center was disappointed with the committee’s recommended cut, but pleased with the process overall.
“We thought (the committee was) very viewpoint-neutral,” he said. “They enforced the rules to all the groups in the exact same manner, and we thought that was very fair. We think Mr. Rinehart did a good job in recognizing that.”
The center was among several groups that received cuts in funding because of a resolution that restricted how much money could be directed to stipends, wages and salaries.
Henry Hewes, chairman of the Student Organization Fees Committee, said the committee acted in a viewpoint-neutral fashion this year.
He noted that while several groups are unhappy with the recommendations, many are pleased.
“You’re always going to hear from the people who don’t get everything that they intended,” he said. “It’s important to listen, but it’s also important to couch it in the process as a whole.”