Groups make final fees pleas

Two student groups voiced concerns about plagiarism and finances at a hearing Monday.

Blair Emerson

In the eleventh hour, two University of Minnesota student groups are expressing concerns over student services fees allocations.

After a months-long fees allocation process, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly brought concerns of plagiarism and financial mismanagement, respectively, to Vice Provost of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young on Monday.

The hearing was the last opportunity to raise issues with this year’s fees process. Brown Young will approve final recommendations May 5, and the Board of Regents will finalize them in June.

Several students protested the Student Services Fees Committee’s decision to reallocate funds for Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, which was initially penalized for plagiarizing another group’s application.

MPIRG members say that CFACT plagiarized their application. Some MPIRG members expressed concerns with the fees committee’s decision to change CFACT’s initial funding recommendation of $18,700 to more than $82,000 after the group filed an appeal.

“This recommendation sets a dangerous precedent for the entire student [services] fees process,” MPIRG Co-Chair Cora Ellenson-Myers said at Monday’s hearing.

The student services fees committee said in its rationale that penalizing CFACT so heavily in the initial recommendations was unfair.

Still, MPIRG member Jason Dayton expressed concerns with the small cut to CFACT’s budget.

“In any other aspect in this University, if a student or faculty member is caught plagiarizing … there would be severe consequences,” he said at the hearing.

No CFACT members spoke at the hearing, and the group’s president, Rachel Jansen, declined to comment Monday night.

She previously told the Minnesota Daily that it’s common practice for student groups to model their applications on those of similar groups.

MPIRG leaders said they reached out to other student groups to speak out about the issue of plagiarism and attend the hearing Monday.

“We had a lot of other people echoing the same points,” Ellenson-Myers said. “That was really good to hear.”

GAPSA financial concerns

Some GAPSA members brought up concerns with a lack of financial disclosure from the assembly’s members.

Keaton Miller, a COGS representative to GAPSA, said at the hearing that some of the assembly’s executive board requested a full inspection of GAPSA’s financial records. To date, he said, none of that request has been fulfilled.

GAPSA Executive Board member and COGS president Andrew McNally echoed Miller’s concerns and requested that the fees committee investigate GAPSA and its advisers.

“GAPSA has consistently misrepresented its financial records and refused to open its books to students who have requested those records,” he said at the hearing.

Incoming GAPSA president and current Executive Vice President Alfonso Sintjago agreed with the calls for greater transparency but said he hasn’t seen anything concerning while inspecting the assembly’s finances.

Overall, Brown Young said Monday’s hearing was subdued.

“Quiet group today,” she said to the crowd. “I thought there was going to be a line.”