Students protest fees funding recs

Student groups gave feedback about initial funding concerns.

Students criticized the initial student services fees funding recommendations, especially for the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, at public hearings Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Student Services Fees Committee issued its initial recommendations Monday and received feedback from student groups, many of which were concerned funding would cut stipends for staff and student officers.

Based on these initial recommendations, students would pay almost $430 each semester, which is up about $38 from this year.

Amanda Pratt, a third-year pharmacy student, said she’s concerned with how GAPSA is spending its fees funding.

“I have day care to pay for and a mortgage, and I just want to see that they’re not spending a lot of money on things that might not be necessary,” Pratt said.

GAPSA was recommended about $434,000 for 2013-14, about $29,000 less than its requested amount. The assembly received about $392,000 in 2012-13.

GAPSA’s request included a $91,650 appropriation for salaries, wages and stipends, which was fully funded in the initial recommendations.

According to GAPSA’s request, $50,400 of that allocation would be spent on officer stipends, with the remainder going to two office assistants for GAPSA and the council.

Pratt said she was concerned that GAPSA over-budgets for expenses like food or travel.

“I just want them to be reasonable about what students have to pay for,” she said, “not just things that make them more decadent.”

The SSFC recommended $27,000 in deductions from GAPSA’s request for food, travel and parking expenses, according to the committee’s rationale.

Officer stipends cut ‘across the board’

Several student groups, including St. Paul’s Outreach and Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, would have to cut stipends for staff and student officers based on the initial recommendations of the committee.

“It seems like student officer stipends got cut across the board,” said Shelley Parlas, former president of St. Paul’s Outreach.

Paid staff members are necessary for the nature of faith-based student groups, she said.

“The staff members have the background and the training that the students themselves don’t have,” Parlas said. “If we didn’t have them, our group would be nowhere near what it is.”

The SSFC recommended deductions totaling $46,500 from the group’s request — including $30,000 because it said St. Paul’s Outreach didn’t provide “adequate justification” to receive stipends.

In order to receive funding from student services fees, the requests must be “fully and completely justified,” said Katie Saphner, chair of the student groups SSFC.

“We only provided funds for stipends or staff if we felt that those stipends and staff were integral to the programming and to the needs of the group,” she said.

Andrew Christensen, a CFACT officer, said paying student officers holds them more accountable for the group’s work.

CFACT was recommended $26,000 in cuts to student-officer stipends. The SSFC said the group didn’t justify the need to pay student officers, according to its rationale.

Christensen said he disagrees with the initial recommendation because it will affect the commitment of CFACT members.

“It’d be harder to get people to commit to the number of office hours that they currently commit to,” Christensen said. “I don’t know if the group could continue to exist in a manner that is anywhere like it exists now.”

SSFC adviser Megan Sweet said this year’s committee reviewed stipend requests more carefully this year.

“This year, the committee reviewed salary stipends probably with a more thorough eye than they had in the past,” she said.

Speaking policy concerns

Concerns regarding the speaking policy at SSFC public hearings were also brought up Wednesday.

Because of a 2012 policy change, the SSFC allows only University of Minnesota students, staff and faculty to speak at its public hearings.

Bill Gilles, a CFACT adviser who isn’t affiliated with the University, said he was “taken aback” when he wasn’t allowed to speak at Wednesday’s public hearing.

Sweet said the policy was changed to give University students priority because they pay the student services fee.

“Strictly for the public hearings,” she said, “this time is set aside for students, faculty and staff of the
University.”