Disbanded SLC group still receives student fees money

The organization might receive between $5,000 and $10,000 which will be used to pay remaining taxes, rent and contracts.

by Jens Krogstad

Students paying optional student service fees this summer might be contributing money to a student group that no longer exists.

The Student Legislative Coalition voted to disband this winter, but students that registered for summer classes could still check off to support the group.

The organization is estimated to receive anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 in fees from students who signed up for summer classes this year, according to Chris Frazier, whose term as president of Graduate and Professional Student Assembly expired last week.

Instead of spending the fee money to lobby on behalf of student interests – the group’s stated purpose – fees collected this summer will go to finish the process of shutting down the organization.

Frazier said the Student Legislative Coalition still has remaining taxes, rent and contracts to pay. Thus far, the coalition has spent approximately $133,000 disbanding.

Josh Colburn, last year’s Minnesota Student Association president, said the group is still collecting money because student service fees are assessed on a yearly basis, so any changes in fees collection cannot take place until next year.

When students sign up for classes, they are given the option to contribute money to different student organizations. One of those organizations is the Student Legislative Coalition.

Because the money is going to disband the group and not to lobby for students, those asking for a refund are getting it – $1.05 for students taking three to five credits, and $2.10 for students taking six or more credits.

“The money (students) pay this summer will be used in a different way than what they expect,” Frazier said. “I have kindly been returning money to students who request it, which I hope more (students) would do.”

She said approximately four students have called her asking for a refund.

Last winter, members of MSA and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly criticized the coalition for ineffectiveness and poor use of funds.

In December, both assemblies voted to withdraw their memberships in SLC. The following month, however, both groups, along with assemblies at the Duluth, Morris and Crookston campuses agreed to form a restructured coalition.

One of the major changes they made while reorganizing the group was to make it more responsive to the needs of individual campuses, Colburn said.

Last year there was at least one incident where different campuses wanted different things from SLC.

The Daily reported in January that the SLC chair for the Duluth campus submitted a fees request last year without approval from the Twin Cities members.

Student leaders said problems within the former SLC were solved with the new agreement, which allows more autonomy for each campus’ student associations, but criticisms remain.

Frank Viggiano, executive director of Minnesota State Universities Student Association, said he believes the coalition needs to have more presence in St. Paul.

“Part of the reason (for giant tuition increases) is a lack of consistent presence at the Capitol,” Viggiano said.

Colburn said it is a matter of differing lobbying philosophies, and they prefer to come to the Capitol on occasion to deliver messages personally.

“They misunderstand the purpose of SLC,” he said. “The purpose of SLC is students delivering messages themselves – it is the most effective way to represent.”