Vice Provost Rinehart on the student fees process

I am writing in response to the March 22 article “Chair questions OSA fees oversight.” The story was written without providing appropriate opportunity for me or someone from my office to provide perspective from the Office for Student Affairs.

Megan Freeman, chairwoman of the Student Services Fee Committee, has made several requests for information regarding the administrative budget. We promptly responded and, from my perspective, the questions have been answered. The chairwoman was provided with a budget, which indicated how the funds are used and summarized expenses from previous years.

The largest part of the budget covers expenses related to student group audits, with the remainder used to cover a portion of the fees adviserâÄôs salary, stipends for committee members, room rental, food, advertising and other expenses associated with administering the fees process.

The carry-forward in the budget is primarily the result of annual audit expenses coming in lower than expected. However, the audit expenses are included as part of a larger University-wide contract, and we have had to budget for the full expense even if the actual charges were less than expected.

The carry-forward was taken into consideration when planning the fiscal year 2012 budget and 2013 forecast, and there will not be a request for increased student fee funding for this budget until the carry-forward is spent down.

The budget is not being used to “make up for departmental shortfalls through cost-shifting” as alleged by Freeman in the article, nor are there expenses “out of control and unmanaged,” which she contended in an earlier message to me. The carry-forward has remained in the Student Services Fees Administrative Budget account, and its origin and intended use have been explained to the chairwoman on several occasions.

As pointed out in the article, the Student Services Fees Committee has not previously asked or been asked to examine or make recommendations on the Student Services Fees Administrative Budget. Thus far, the Administrative Unit Fees Committee has not asked any questions or raised any concerns about this budget.

Additionally, it is unclear to what extent there is consensus among the Student Organizations Fees Committee that the Student Services Fees administrative budget is an issue of concern. Freeman did not bring this issue to the attention of her committee until we inquired about their interest.

The fees adviser and I have both indicated to Freeman that concerns arising midstream in the fees process are most appropriately addressed in the meeting held with the leaders of the various fees committees and subcommittees in late April. It is not unusual to find areas that need additional clarification or attention for next yearâÄôs process.

Determining that changes need to occur in the presentation of the Student Services Fees Administrative Budget is not something that can be decided in the middle of the fees process, and it is not something that can be decided by the chairwoman of the student organizations fees committee alone.

In many previous interactions with the Minnesota Daily, I have felt the paper has been thorough and objective. I am hopeful that standard will prevail in the future.