Fees committee doesn’t fully represent campus

This year’s fees committee has many members from the greek community and certain colleges.

by Samantha Alisankus

While the group of University of Minnesota students that distributes student services fees is supposed to be representative of the entire student body, this year’s committee is skewed toward greek organizations and certain colleges.

This year’s Student Services Fees Committee has minimal representation from two of the University’s largest colleges and more than a quarter of the 22 members are involved in greek organizations.

More than a quarter are also members of the Minnesota Student Association or the Student or University Senate, according to a survey by the Minnesota Daily. Two of the 22 students did not return a request for information.

The SSFC — which this year includes 15 voting and seven alternate members — is charged with distributing student services fees to student groups and administrative units. For 2012-13, the SSFC allocated nearly $29 million to almost 90 student groups and
University organizations.

MSA and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, which select the members of the SSFC, seek a committee that’s representative of the student body to better distribute students’ money to groups and organizations, said SSFC adviser Megan Sweet. About 60 students applied this year.

It’s important to choose committee members that are reflective of the student population, Sweet said, since almost all students taking six or more credits have to pay the student services fee, which is $368 this semester.

She said although diversity plays an important role in the selection of members, other factors are considered as well, like a candidate’s understanding of neutrality and familiarity with fee-funded programs.

“We definitely take into account the overall composition of the committee,” she said.

Sweet pointed out that this year’s SSFC includes representatives from all undergraduate classes, as well as graduate and professional students, transfer students and nontraditional students.

“I think it’s a pretty representative group,” she said.

Comparing the committee to University demographics

The colleges with the highest enrollment at the University are the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science and Engineering, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

This year, the SSFC includes nine representatives from CLA, one representative from CSE and eight from the Carlson School of Management, which accounts for about 9 percent of the student body.

There aren’t any representatives from the College of Education and Human Development, the third-largest college at the University with about 500 more students than Carlson.

“I can’t explain why that happened,” Sweet said. “We’ve had representatives from those colleges in the past.”

Moses Chea, treasurer of the Minnesota International Student Association, which received student services fees, said the current makeup of the committee doesn’t concern him, but it could be improved.

“It might be better to have more diversity,” Chea said. “The committee should represent the diversity of the school.”

Overall, the SSFC has representation from seven of the University’s 17 colleges.

The six committee members involved in greek organizations do not reflect the University community, as fewer than 2,000 students across the University were greek as of last year.

Chea said he believes it’s important for the committee to be diverse because a member’s viewpoints and affiliations can affect how he or she analyzes each organization and assesses its value.

Sophomore Roberto Barrientos decided to apply online for a position on the SSFC after receiving a campus-wide email that mentioned it. He said he wanted to get more involved with the University.

“There’s always a concern,” Barrientos said, but he said he felt the committee is representative of the University population.

Abdulrahman Jama, the Al-Madinah Cultural Center treasurer, said he believes it’s important to have diverse representation in the SSFC in order to avoid bias in monetary allocation decisions.