Chance to rule on fees passing

JP Leider

Students interested in how $22 million in Student Services Fees will be awarded this year might want to take note – applications to the Student Services Fees Committee are due by 4 p.m. today.

When all is said and done, 15 students and as many as eight alternates will be selected to serve on the fees committee, the organization that decides how funds are allocated to student and administrative groups.

University Fees Adviser Aaron Asmundson described the process as a good experience for students looking to become involved in the decision-making process at the University.

Students participating in the process should expect to put in 40 to 50 hours of work during the beginning of spring semester, he said.

As of Friday, 24 students had applied for 23 positions. But Asmundson said that number is an improvement from the same time last year.

“Applications always come in last minute so I’m guessing the majority haven’t come in yet,” he said Friday afternoon.

A new feature of the fees committee is that members will receive stipends for their service – $500 to general committee members and alternates, $600 for subcommittee chairpersons and $750 for each committee chairperson.

Members from the fees advisory committee that recommended this change argued stipends would likely draw more viewpoint-neutral applicants rather than those with an agenda.

Aaron Solem, a former member of the fees committee and president of Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, said that justification is “silly.”

“You bring in more people who don’t seem to care about the process, who wouldn’t care about the process if they didn’t get a $500 stipend,” he said.

Solem said the idea of stipends drawing more viewpoint-neutral people doesn’t make sense because “everybody has an agenda whether or not they admit it – everyone has a viewpoint.”

The only way the fees process can be truly fair, he said, is to have a viewpoint-neutral system. For Solem, the relatively flexible set of current criteria that fees committee members use isn’t enough.

Creating and sticking by standards is the best way to improve the process, Solem said.

MSA Vice President and former fees advisory board member Colin Schwensohn disagreed with the notion of a relatively hands-off fees process.

“It’s essential to have a human element,” he said. “(Students applying for fees) need to make a case before their peers.

“I want it to be a fair and equal system,” Schwensohn said. “But there are instances (in which) students at face value fulfill requirements, but upon closer examination don’t.”

Schwensohn said the recent creation of a formal appeals process is an improvement over last year.

“We wanted there to be some framework and a formal process – if you can prove there’s viewpoint bias, then you have a case,” he said.

What the advisory board didn’t want was for groups that don’t receive funding to get angry and petition Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for Student Affairs, for recourse, Schwensohn said.