Student groups contest initial fees recommendations

MSA’s request was initially cut by $61,400, and nine student groups could receive no funding at all.

Raya Zimmerman

In the first round of public hearings after initial student services fees recommendations were released, student groups have begun to protest proposed funding cuts.

Advocates for the Minnesota Student Association stood before the Student Services Fees Committee on Tuesday to object to the $61,400 gap between what the student governing board requested and what its initial recommendation allotted for its 2011-12 budget.

MSA still might have a chance. SSFC included $42,000 less in its initial recommendation because of an error in the audit of the groupâÄôs records, which MSA found and corrected.

Deloitte and Touche, the company the University of Minnesota uses to audit student groups, included MSAâÄôs programming budget in its audit to the SSFC but failed to add in its operating budget, which resulted in a missing $42,000. SSFC deducted that amount in MSAâÄôs initial recommendation.

Carrie Nelson, chief financial officer for MSA, caught the error and provided canceled check images to the company that account for another $10,000. Deloitte and Touche corrected the error and submitted a formal apology to MSA.

âÄúIâÄôm confident that weâÄôll be able to work with the fees committee and get these errors sorted out,âÄù MSA President Sarah Shook said.

MSA plans to go through the appeals process where student groups can submit a written appeal after the release of the final funding recommendation, Shook said.

Perhaps in deeper water is the Black Student Union, which, at this point in the fees process, is expected to receive nothing. ThatâÄôs a $65,000 difference from what it requested.

During his two minutes to improve the groupâÄôs position, BSU President Arsenio Ward called the fees recommendation âÄúdisheartening.âÄù

âÄúWhat we do here is very vital and very essential, not only for students of color but for all students on campus,âÄù Ward said.

BSU Treasurer Kaitlin Ellis said last yearâÄôs treasurer went abroad during the spring 2010 semester, leaving the group without someone permanently handling funds. This, she said, accounted for many missing receipts from that semester.

While presenting to the committee, Ellis stressed BSUâÄôs importance, listing off various events the decades-old group hosts throughout the year.

She said it would be grateful to have $10,000 and could work with scholarships and grants.

Student groups have the option to meet with the committee individually to further prove their need for more funding beyond the initial recommendations. However, in an e-mail Monday, some groups were denied private hearings, Shook said.

SSFC declined to grant private hearings because it voted to accept only written statements and new budgets online instead.

BSU members plan to attend the next public hearing, as well.

Of the 58 student groups that requested student service fees this semester, nine groups were denied funds.

The Saint Paul Board of Colleges, which was hoping to see $18,000, got nothing.

The group governs the five colleges on the St. Paul Campus and funds small grant applications.

âÄúWeâÄôre not being hurt as a group, but student organizations and groups on campus that we help will see long-term effects,âÄù Andrew Kryzer, president of the board, said.

The last public hearing is at 4 p.m., tomorrow, in Coffman UnionâÄôs PresidentâÄôs Room.