A penny spent is a penny returned

Niche student groups diversify the University campus but vanish without minor funds.

by David Shaffer

There is a problem on this campus regarding the sustainability of real student groups. The group I am in, Campus People Watchers, is a real student group. We are made up of kids who want to have fun and seek social betterment by exploring what the world has to offer. We donâÄôt hold stuffy lectures, boring weekly meetings or use RobertâÄôs Rules of Order because we are serious enough in class. However, the University of Minnesota makes it difficult to be a real student group through tax-like participation requirements and by divvying your money out to big, conglomerate groups. Case in point: A few weeks ago, we were sent an e-mail with a copy of the initial recommendations made by the Student Services Fees Committee. We were awarded zero dollars because we had not shown that we helped the University community enough. We recognized that the Fees Committee may be right, but we appealed anyway because our group needs money in order to pay the bills necessary to keep our organization alive. These bills are costs created by the Student Unions and Activities Office and include an annual $25 fee just to be recognized as a group, another $30 to be included in student activities fairs and so on and so forth. Despite these costs being individually low, it requires roughly $126 per year year to keep Campus People Watchers alive, and I know we are not the only organization floundering. Campus People Watchers is student group No. 2,122. Currently, there are only about 600 active student groups on campus. What has happened to the other 1,500 or so student groups that have existed here? Perhaps their purpose has been fulfilled, and the group disbanded. Or perhaps there is something wrong with a University system that only gives out grants to cover group events but doesnâÄôt give a dime to alleviate startup costs. If it takes money to make money, and you canâÄôt use grant money to fundraise, then little groups will be poor forever. There isnâÄôt even a way to get a loan here. Now, I recognize that the money the Fees Committee hands out to different student organizations is from the pockets of the students on campus, and if the committee members are indeed representative of the student body, then perhaps we are undeserving in the eyes of students. But when it was all said and done, we had asked for less money than most fee-receiving groups spend on pizza for their introductory meetings. We asked each student on campus to contribute .0018 cent, and that money would have gone entirely to retaining our existence. I ask you to question whether or not the presence of zany groups like us, or our friends at The Dance Dance Revolution Club, or the great kids in the Society for Creative Anachronism, are worth more to you than pizza you will never eat. I ask you to question whether the real student groups deserve your money and to question why you are paying groups like the Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow $1.42. If you want the little special interest and hobby groups on campus to survive, and you feel that their existence makes the University a better place to go to school, then you should take a sliver of time to voice that opinion. If youâÄôve found pleasure in The Minnesota DailyâÄôs coverage of niche groups like Campus War Gamers, Basses Wild, the Manga Anime Society or the PeopleâÄôs Fire Coalition, let the student representatives to the Student Services Fees Committee know it. If the University community wants real student groups to remain alive, it must address the fees process. LetâÄôs see some progress for students and either remove the ridiculous student groupsâÄô fees or guarantee that each loved student group on campus get its .0018 cent. David Shaffer University undergraduate student