Coup against student fees chairman

A dissenting faction used extralegal methods to install a new chairman.

Derek Trout

An extraordinary thing happened on Friday. A group of students, faculty and the University of Minnesota Student Services Fees Committee for Administrative Units administrator conducted an illegal coup against the sitting chairman of the Fees Committee. This is no small matter. The Administrative side of the SSFC, which reviews requests for big-ticket student groups, is responsible for the collection and allocation of over $24 million of mandatory student fees. This year, every full time student is paying $665 for these services. The SSFC is supposed to represent the student body and make recommendations on how this large sum of money is allocated. They decide how much every student should pay for these services. The controversy started a couple weeks ago when two students, one of them being former chairman Kenny Kapphahn, lost the chairman election to Sean Niemic. The next meeting, this sore loser coalition attempted to remove Niemic. The thin rationale was their disagreement on the status of The Minnesota Daily as a student group or administrative group and with NiemicâÄôs tough, but wholly fair and appropriate, budget questions of the other administrative groups. Niemic held the removal vote and it failed. Last Friday, Kapphahn again insisted on another vote for NiemicâÄôs removal. In a bizarre series of parliamentary procedures, the entire agenda was suspended. Kapphahn then motioned to reconsider the removal of the chairman. Niemic correctly ruled KennyâÄôs motion out of order, since only the prevailing side can ask for a reconsideration. Kapphahn and a few other members began shouting at Niemic and accused him of making up the rules. Included among the shouting members was the faculty representative on the committee and administrative adviser Erich Martin. Niemic looked up the rules online and read from a Wikipedia entry on RobertâÄôs Rules of Order, which showed his ruling was right and proper. At first Kapphahn claimed Niemic had changed the Wikipedia entry the night before. When the preposterousness of that claim sunk in, the sore loser coalition went quiet, knowing they had been defeated. Niemic then moved to bring up the normal business of the day, but again, shouting erupted. The administrator announced to everyone that the âÄúcommittee was at an impasse and no business would be done.âÄù At that point, Niemic offered up a motion to adjourn. There was no objection and the meeting adjourned. Niemic and others then left the meeting, but the sore loser coalition and Martin stuck around and improperly reconvened the meeting (by violating Regent SSFC meeting policy) and Martin announced that Niemic had been removed as chairman and as a member of the SSFC. It should be noted that no removal vote ever took place. At best, there were seven people standing and yelling at the chairman, claiming that they were voting. University Board of RegentsâÄô policy states that to remove a member, two-thirds vote of the membership is required. There are eleven members of the committee and at no time did eight members vote or show support for removing the chairman. Even though the sore loser coalition had a two-thirds majority at this particular meeting, the rules clearly state that two-thirds of the membership is needed for removal. Imagine if 40 Republican senators and 20 Democratic senators met, made quorum, and then voted 40-20 (two-thirds of those present) to remove President Barack Obama. That is the logic used by Kapphahn and Martin to justify the removal of Niemic as chairman. The night ended with an election of Kapphahn as the âÄúchairmanâÄù of this new shadow fees committee, who had the gumption to review and recommend budgets. I sit on this committee as the first alternate. Had this process been legitimate, I would have been seated as a regular member, but no one saw fit to do that, and for good reason. The sore loser coalition and Martin know perfectly well that Chairman Niemic was properly selected by the SSFC selection committee, approved as a member by both the graduate and undergraduate student governments (MSA and GAPSA) and was duly elected chairman of the administrative side of the SSFC. Even though his extralegal removal is endorsed by University administration (Martin), it was not proper. It did not follow regent policy. It was simply a coup. Derek Trout University undergraduate student Student Services Fees Committee