Students weigh in on fees process

This was the final chance for groups to give feedback on the fees process.

Cali Owings

Students had an opportunity to provide feedback for the 2011 student services fees allocation process Tuesday afternoon with Vice Provost Jerry Rinehart.  
Representatives from student groups expressed their concerns with the fees process, but overall attendance was low.
It was the last public hearing before Rinehart will make a decision regarding groups that appealed directly to him. Megan Sweet,  the fees adviser, said three groups had submitted appeals to the vice provost. This was the first year using a formal appeals process through an appeals committee in which six groups had the opportunity to present an appeal of the Student Services Fees CommitteeâÄôs final recommendations.
While Rinehart said he thought the review process from last summer helped to smooth out problems from the previous year, he said there is still room for improvement.
For students, like Aaron Carlson, who have âÄúlittle faithâÄù in the fees process, itâÄôs comforting that the final decision ultimately rests with the vice provost and the Office for Student Affairs.
Representatives from the Black Student Union, which was granted $54,992 after its appeal, complained that problems with the audit and appeals process made them appear irresponsible when the fault lay with the auditors and the appeals committee.
BSU Treasurer Kaitlin Ellis  told Rinehart that two of the receipts requested from the auditors were in their materials all along. Kiara Malone, the organizationâÄôs secretary, said reports in the Minnesota Daily made it seem like BSU was not being cooperative during the fees process, but that they had communication issues with the chairwoman of the student organizations committee, Megan Freeman.
Some students thanked Rinehart and the Office for Student Affairs for being open to student criticism. The statements during the forum were recorded for documentation as well as comments on the student services fees website. The information received through these channels will help determine the scope of the review committee this summer.
Concerned students brought up topics that might be discussed in the review committee this summer. David Shaffer  of the Campus People Watchers  suggested looking into how to address small startup student groups or hobby groups, like the Yu-Gi-Oh Club, that typically do not receive funding. He also said the decisions the fees committee makes based on whether a group provides a great enough service to students on campus were not viewpoint neutral.
Rinehart has also stated that the student services fees administration budget, the student fees money used to fund the process, is another item with the potential for review this summer.
During the final forum of the year Tuesday night, the Minnesota Student Association  passed a resolution calling for more transparency. It calls for the Office for Student Affairs to provide the same justification for the fees process expenses as other groups are required to do. The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly passed a similar resolution in March.
However, when OSA Chief of Staff Amelious Whyte  visited forum two weeks ago, he said OSA had already provided the committee with the same information required of administrative units like Boynton Health Service.  The office provided a budget breakdown for the last two years as well as projected expenses for this year through 2013.
The chair of the student organization committee requested a ledger of expenses that student groups are required to provide. In a previous interview, Whyte said it did not make sense to have their staff working to create a ledger of transactions because that is not one of the requirements for administrative units.
He said it was unfair to say this use of fees was not transparent. They had just never thought to bring it before students for review.