Fees selection committee responds

Recently, concerns have appeared in the Daily regarding the procedure by which the Minnesota Student Association approved, by a vote of 29-2, the 1999-2000 Student Services Fees Committee. Whether or not MSA needs to modify its procedures is an issue for the members of MSA to decide. However, those who are displeased with the process have invoked spurious arguments regarding the quality of this year’s fees committee slate as part of their justification for forcing a change in MSA procedures.
We, the members of the Student Services Fees Selection Committee — the people who selected this year’s fees committee slate, want to correct the false information that has been used to attack what is, in truth, an excellent slate of candidates.
First, let us outline the fees selection process. Each fall, the Campus Involvement Center announces the opening of the process by taking out Daily ads and distributing applications to interested students. This year, applications were made available around Sept. 20 and were accepted until Oct. 8. Upon review of the applications, we asked the CIC to reopen the application process. Another series of ads appeared in the Daily and a campus-wide e-mail was sent to advertise the reopening. Additional applications were accepted during the week of Oct. 18. We reviewed every application and gave each applicant a 30-minute interview. Based upon the applications and interviews, we selected 13 individuals to serve on this year’s committee.
One of the most serious claims regarding this year’s slate is that it is racially biased. One Daily letter asserted the fees committee is “98 percent white.” This is a ludicrous statement. Ninety-eight percent of 13 implies that 12.74 members of the 13 member committee are white. In truth, four members of the committee are nonwhite — a 30 percent minority representation. That’s excellent when you realize that only about 15 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment at the University is nonwhite (Source: Official Registration Statistics, University of Minnesota).
Minorities are represented on the fees committee at twice their level of enrollment at the University.
Another unsubstantiated claim is that “an extreme minority (of the committee members) are graduate students.” This is also false. Three of the 13 committee members are graduate students; that’s 23 percent. Graduate and professional students make up about 30 percent of the University enrollment, but nearly 20 percent of those do not pay the student services fee (Source: Official Registration Statistics, University of Minnesota).
About 24 percent of fees-paying students are graduate and professional students, and they make up 23 percent of the proposed committee. Graduate students are represented appropriately.
In the Nov. 18 Daily article, “MSA criticized for hasty OK of committee,” one individual asserted that only two women were appointed to the committee. This, too, is incorrect. Three women were appointed to the 13-member committee; that’s about one-fourth of the committee. Is that reflective of the University population? Of course not. Why did the selection committee allow this to happen?
Only seven women applied. One subsequently asked that her name be removed from consideration. Of the remaining six, three made the committee, one was selected as an alternate, and two were disqualified on the basis of their applications and interviews. About one-fourth of the applicants were women and, as a result, about one-fourth of the final committee is female. Moreover, we went out of our way to increase female representation on the committee. One reason we asked the CIC to reopen the application process was to allow more women to apply, and several of us attempted to recruit more female applicants.
Another false statement is that “the only organizations that are represented by the currently proposed student fees committee are Students Against Fees Excess, the U-DFL, the College Republicans and the Campus Libertarians.” Members of these groups have been nominated to the committee, but so have individuals who are not involved in any of these organizations.
Our committee slate also consists of past and present members of MSA, GAPSA, the Student Senate, the Muslim Student Association, the United Nations Association, the Student Dispute Resolution Committee, the Campus Involvement Center, the Student Legislative Coalition, ROTC, various greek organizations, the Pre-Law Society, residence-hall councils, the National Residence Hall Honorary, the University of Minnesota Atheists and Humanists, the University Coalition for Choice, Focus on Animal Contributions to Science, various professional societies, Boynton Health Service’s Health Advocate Program, the University of Minnesota Marching Band, the Women Athletics’ Band, The Minnesota Daily, PRISM, the Advertising Club, Coffman Memorial Union, New Student Weekend and various departmental activities among others.
While it is not possible to have a representative from every student group or organization on the committee, there is plenty of variety on the slate — enough to represent all fees-paying students and provide for a true marketplace of ideas. From their involvement in these activities, the nominees understand the importance of student groups to the fabric of the University community.
This year’s slate of candidates is balanced and representative of the diverse University community. However, gender, ethnicity and organizational representation were not the primary criteria used in selecting the candidates. Rather, the candidates were chosen because they have demonstrated certain qualities: one, a commitment to the University community through their involvement in an array of student groups, organizations and activities; two, an ability to formulate, communicate and justify their own beliefs; three, an ability to set aside their own personal or political biases and evaluate each fees-receiving group purely on its budget proposal, its record of financial management and its benefit — past and present — to the University community; and four, a willingness to work with others to resolve disagreements in a mature and professional manner.
These qualities are the essential ingredients in a fair and balanced fees process. Any candidate who did not meet these criteria was excluded from the committee regardless of gender, ethnicity, personal beliefs, campus involvement, major or student status. The fees committee nominees present an exceptional slate of candidates, and we stand behind them 100 percent.
For those individuals who have inaccurately represented the composition of the fees committee slate, we have two comments. First, if you are so concerned about the composition of the slate, why did you not apply to serve on the committee? Second, think hard about the fourth criterion used in this year’s selection process. Airing your grievances on the letters page of the Daily without first discussing your concerns with the leaders of MSA and GAPSA or the members of the selection committee does not demonstrate “a willingness to work with others to resolve disagreements in a mature and professional manner.”
With the rest of the University community, we share the following thought. Those who are upset with the MSA procedure for approving the fees committee have unfairly targeted this year’s slate as a means of bringing about change within MSA. While we are now setting the record straight and correcting the erroneous information that has been printed in the Daily, much damage has been done. There certainly are problems here, but they do not lie with the fees committee slate.
Student Services Fees Selection Committee: Sarah Afshar, Phillip Cole, Paul Enever, Mindy Holahan. Send comments to [email protected]