Grads discuss student fees

Than Tibbetts

Graduate and professional students voiced their displeasure Wednesday at a forum about a possible student fee for the proposed on-campus stadium.

Many of the students left saying their questions were unanswered and even neglected.

Goldy’s Groundbreaking Crew, a student stadium group, brought Athletics Director Joel Maturi, stadium bill author Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, and other officials to discuss the University’s plans for a $235 million on-campus stadium.

Maturi told the audience a new stadium would instill a Big Ten atmosphere and a sense of pride on campus.

Along with the much-publicized $35 million TCF sponsorship of the stadium, Maturi said six individuals have lined up to contribute $1 million each toward the stadium.

Although the reality of raising money was not questioned, graduate students at the event came to question another method of fund raising: assessing a student fee, which could be set at $50 per semester per student.

“A $50 fee is a two-week paycheck for me right now,” said Aaron Windel, a history graduate assistant. “I am strapped right now with just living expenses.”

Officials said that in exchange for the fee, they are talking with students and working on a comprehensive benefits package they hope will offer something for every student, from cheaper student ticket prices to discounts at local businesses.

Lynn Holleran, associate to the University Office of the President, said officials have heard the concerns of the Council of Graduate Students and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, both of which have opposed a stadium fee in one form or another.

“I quite honestly believe that most students aren’t enthusiastic about a fee,” she said. “We’ll probably need to go the route of assessing (stadium) fees along with tuition and fees.”

Britt Johnson, president of the Council of Graduate Students, said she has never wanted to present an “anti-stadium position.” But she said she was very distressed with how the University is handling the stadium fees issue.

Windel said it has not been an open process.

“Yet we get to hear the doublespeak from the president’s office,” he said.

Lisa Blee, a history graduate student, compared the stadium fee to having to take a pay cut out of her already slim pay.

“We’re already at the poverty line,” she said.

University officials pointed out that nothing has been finalized and that much of the stadium project still depends on the Legislature.

The University is asking the state to pay $94 million, or 40 percent, of the stadium’s total cost.

Michel said the Legislature needs to take care of its budget issues, including the University’s academic funding, before it tackles the stadium issue.

Along with the state’s bonding bill, “getting the stadium done would be the trifecta,” he said, referring to the Legislature passing all three issues.

University officials remained optimistic they would be able to obtain their portion of the funding and be successful at the Legislature.