Advisory committee considers changes to student fees process

Jerry Rinehart appointed students to the advisory committee.

Liala Helal

After the controversial Student Services Fees process last year, a student advisory committee is working to change the process for years to come.

Through two meetings so far this summer, several ideas have been presented to reform the process of allocating student money between administrative units, student groups and events.

Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs, appointed students to the advisory committee and has the authority to change the process.

“We want to make sure we identify the key problems and not come up with a solution that creates a different problem,” he said.

Several concerns during the fees committee process have arisen in recent years, including claims of discrimination, bias, lack of student interest and complaints that fees are too high.

In the current system, a five-member Administrative Units Committee is in charge of allocating funding to University groups with complex budgets. A larger Student Organizations Committee grants funds to student groups.

One idea includes paying fees committee members a stipend to increase student interest in joining the committees.

Rinehart said a big problem with the fees process is the small number of students willing to participate.

“The fees process should not be hijacked by people with particular views or specific agendas they are trying to achieve,” he said.

Minnesota Student Association President-elect Emily Serafy Cox said she supports offering some kind of stipend because it would help members take the job more seriously.

“It would reduce the likelihood of the fees committee consisting solely of people who just have a bone to pick,” she said.

In another idea, student groups would apply for funding on a per-event basis through a grant pool rather than applying once and receiving a lump sum. MSA and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly would be in charge of distributing these funds to the student groups.

Steve Wang, member of the advisory committee and chairman of the student groups fees committee, said he thinks it is a good idea.

“I think that’s one of the fairest ways you can do it,” he said.

He said such a policy would ensure the quality of events at the University, and because MSA and GAPSA members represent the entire student body and are more qualified than fees committee members to make these decisions, the process will run smoother.

All advisory committee meetings are open to the public, and Rinehart said he wants to recruit new members to the committee in July.

“The advisory committee needs members who can look at these issues from a variety of perspectives,” he said. “We need people who can understand how something could be received by a particular group.”

Any ideas so far, though controversial, are “far from being decided,” Rinehart said.

He added that more meetings will be held this summer, but dates have not been scheduled.