Students can have say in allocation of services fee

The Student Services Fee Committee needs unbiased input for the best dispersal of fees.

JP Leider

In an ideal world, the system would function in a viewpoint-neutral way and services students want and need would get the funding they deserve.

That’s how Jerry Rinehart, associate vice provost for Student Affairs, described the Student Services Fee allocation process.

Each University student taking at least six credits is required to pay these fees on a per-semester basis. The fees support student groups, associations and organizations.

After reversing several controversial recommendations by the Student Services Fee Committee last spring, Rinehart called for the creation of a Student Fee Advisory Committee, which met during the summer.

Rinehart approved the recommendations made by the committee, which consisted of both staff and students.

Rinehart said he hopes these recommendations will eliminate problems experienced in the past.

“It’s happened a couple years now – decisions on the funding seem to reflect some non-neutral judgment about the programming taking place,” he said. “The deliberations of the committee are supposed to be viewpoint-neutral, and it seems like we’ve had a couple instances of bias of the committee members.”

Graduate and Professional Student Assembly President Karen Buhr said many past participants were drawn to the Student Services Fee Committee because of “strong opinions” or an agenda.

She said the best way to counter the appointment of potentially biased members is to get more students to apply for the positions.

One of the biggest changes to the process is involving college boards and councils in recruiting potential members, she said.

Buhr said she expects newly offered stipends to draw more graduate and professional students into the mix.

Students spending that much time on the fees process often can’t work other jobs, which is one of biggest concerns of a graduate or professional student, Buhr said.

Although the Minnesota Student Association and GAPSA have chosen fees selectors, students interested in the fees process can apply to the fees committee itself. Applications are due Oct. 17.

GAPSA and MSA will discuss and vote on the fees committee during a meeting Nov. 1, said MSA President Emily Serafy Cox.

During the meeting, MSA or GAPSA members can remove biased people from the committee who would then be replaced by an alternate, Serafy Cox said.

At last month’s meeting, MSA recommended offering fees committee members stipends for about half of what Rinehart approved.

Unfortunately for MSA, the student applications had already been distributed before the resolution was passed, Rinehart said.

“The timing was off on that – but it’s certainly something we can look at next year,” he said.

Although Rinehart said he’s reluctant to intervene with the student fees process, he said he understands it is sometimes necessary.

“Inevitably, there will be some bias and politics involved,” Rinehart said. “My role in that is to review the recommendations and the rationale, and if there does appear to be an issue, I do have an obligation to step in.”