Groups contest cut fees

Northrop, MPIRG and other groups protested their initial fees recommendations.

Blair Emerson

University of Minnesota students came out in force at a hearing Friday to show their support for Northrop Concerts and Lectures, after the group received less than one-third of its $480,000 fees request in the Student Services Fees Committee‘s initial recommendations.

The organization will provide programming and student meeting space at Northrop Auditorium when it opens in April. But without more student services fees funding, those offerings could be in jeopardy.

“The campus cannot afford to let the first year of Northrop, for all of their current students, go unnoticed,” said Haley Cramer, a junior studying music performance and nonprofit management.

The student services fees process provides funding to University student groups and administrative units.

Northrop Auditorium has been closed for renovations since 2011, which the committee gave as a reason for its recommendation.

“Given that Northrop’s space has not been open for use, we could not justify funding new programs and initiatives without a demonstrated history,” the committee wrote in its initial rationales.

Northrop Communications Specialist Cari Hatcher said much of her job consists of re-educating people about Northrop. Though it was a cultural hub at the University for decades before it closed for renovations, she said many students don’t know what the auditorium has to offer because they’ve never seen it open.

Northrop supporters have collected more than 700 signatures on an online petition that says the group should receive its full fees request.

“[The petition] really demonstrates what the vision of Northrop has been all along,” Hatcher said. “It’s really a place for all students [in] the entire University, no matter what your interests are.”

Reduction in officer stipends

Several student groups also came out to hearings last week to protest the fees committee’s recommended cuts to student group officer stipends, wages and travel expenses.

Young Americans for Liberty chair Brittany Johnson said her group didn’t get any recommended fees money for stipends and wages for student officers in the fees committee’s initial recommendations. The organization was recommended about one-third of its $70,000 request.

If the initial recommendations stick, Johnson said the funding cuts will make it hard for the student group to continue its programming next year.

“The programming events [and] the outreach efforts are heart and soul of our organization,” she said. “If in the final deliberations, the committee decides not to [fully fund us], the group is at serious risk at being able to be a thriving student group next year.”

Last year, cuts to student stipends were prevalent for many student groups. Johnson said the decrease in officer stipend funding this year created leadership issues in Young Americans for Liberty that will continue if the group doesn’t receive its full funding request.

The Minnesota Public Interest Research Group also received a large cut to its full-time staff wages. Group co-chair Kate Dobson said she would like the committee to rethink the recommended wage cut of approximately $21,000 because the group needs to pay its professional staff to work with students.

Some student groups were also given significant cuts to travel expenses in the fees committee’s initial
recommendations.

The Disabled Student Cultural Center was deducted the full amount of travel expenses it requested, which group president Abdirahman Hassan said was
“unreasonable.”

He also said the committee made a mistake in its initial recommendations. Hassan said the group requested $3,000 for travel expenses, but the committee said the DSCC asked for $4,000. Hassan said while $4,000 is too much money for travel expenses, the DSCC does need some fees funding for its travel.

Daily questions recommendations

The Minnesota Daily protested a recommended cut of nearly 25 percent to its $505,000 fees request at a hearing Friday.

The committee’s initial rationales recommended that the Daily’s return rate — the number of papers left on racks each day — be lowered. It also said the Daily should cut its expenses for small-group travel.

President and Co-Publisher Morgan Goronkin said it would be difficult to make the committee’s recommended cuts.

She said the committee’s recommendations to decrease paper return rates aren’t feasible, as return rates often fluctuate depending on time of year and newspaper rack location. She added that the Daily has already cut down on travel expenses from previous years.

Though the Daily’s return rate has gone up in the past few years, Goronkin said, online readership has increased.

“Our readership is not declining,” she said. “It’s sad for us to get something like this. … We feel like we’ve literally done absolutely everything.”

Gayle Golden, a member of the Daily’s Board of Directors and a University journalism instructor, said at Friday’s hearing that the Daily’s fees request reflects the industry’s overall decline.

“Disruptions occur, and they have occurred in the industry with a vengeance,” she said, “and it has not left college newspapers untouched.”