Fees decision approaches

Liala Helal

An advisory committee that is reviewing the Student Services Fees process is closer to a final set of recommendations.

In a meeting Monday, the committee decided to pay stipends to fees committee members and agreed to review administrative units every other year. It decided against requiring student groups to apply for funding on a per-event basis through a grant pool.

“There was general widespread agreement that was a bad idea,” said Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for Student Affairs.

The committee’s recommendations will not be final until Rinehart approves them.

The committee also discussed automatically increasing funding for administrative units each year, a move intended to offer those groups some stability.

“The automatic increase of 3 percent, or whatever it is, kind of scares me,” said Dan Levin, Administrative Units Committee chairman and a member of the advisory committee.

“The whole idea of having a student review process is to make sure that if students are going to be asked to pay more money, then they have a participatory role in making that call,” he said.

Other discussions included how to review The Minnesota Daily every year as an administrative unit, how administrative units can make special requests and whether fees committee members should stay on for two years so the same people who granted an administrative unit funding could also be the ones to review it at the end of the two years.

The committee decided fees committee members would have to follow certain criteria to remain on the fees committee. For example, they might be required to attend a set number of meetings and to be prepared during meetings.

“Using those criteria, if you were able to stay on the fees committee, you’d get your stipend,” said Amelious Whyte, Rinehart’s assistant.

Whyte will also create a smaller “working group” of committee members and others to decide on some details, such as how much money fees committee members will get in their stipends.

Rinehart said a downside to offering stipends would be the additional money required from student fees.

Abu Jalal, outgoing president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and advisory committee member, said the stipend should also be high enough to provide incentive to be on the committee.

“We have to find a balance between paying too much and paying too little,” he said.

After the meeting, Bill Gilles, national director of Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow and one of two observers, said it was nice to see the process being opened up, but he was not satisfied and is not optimistic.

“It appeared that most of the decisions have already been made,” he said.

Gilles said he would like the advisory committee to not assume that students want all services the University offers, and to not use that logic to make them pay for the services.

Gilles said he is also concerned about the structure of the fees process.

“Right now, we have students looking at very complex budget detail with absolutely no experience and nothing to really judge it on,” he said.

Levin said Gilles’ comment disregards the training that fees committee members go through.

“We’re not just people picked off the streets and thrown into something we can’t handle,” he said. “So in that respect, I thought that comment was not only misguided but almost a little offensive.”

Gilles said he does not like the “two-tiered system” of administrative units and student groups and he would like both to be treated the same way.

But they have been treated differently for many years, Levin said, and it is not the advisory committee that made it that way.

“You can’t accuse this group of doing something that’s been the way things are already,” Levin said.

A portion of the controversy might be artificial, Levin said.

“People with various, specific goals are making it more of an issue and setting up the idea that this group is somehow out to get students,” he said.

The next meeting will take place from 3:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. on Thursday in room 238A of Morrill Hall.