GAPSA ousts fees member

GAPSA removed me from the SSFC last month for questioning its use of funds. Though I was one of the few returning SSFC members, GAPSA President Brittany Edwards said in an email to the GAPSA Assembly that removing me from the SSFC would prevent “a huge potential obstacle” to GAPSA’s fee request.

During a GAPSA meeting, discussion focused on an objection I had raised last year regarding the use of student fees to fund hotel expenses for GAPSA Executive Board members during a trip to Duluth. While connecting with Duluth students is an important part of GAPSA’s advocacy mission, I questioned the usefulness of spending student fees money on lodging for the Board.

I was not, in general, an obstacle to GAPSA’s fees request. Last year, other SSFC members and I had the job of reviewing every student group’s fee request. We questioned many groups about why they needed fees, what they would do with those funds and how they would benefit all fee-paying students. Almost all of the groups eagerly answered and did well. Some appealed our decision. While GAPSA did not appeal, they clearly didn’t like being questioned. 

I was removed as a way of intimidating other SSFC members into rubber-stamping GAPSA’s fees request, following a pattern GAPSA has had for some time. 

At the beginning of the SSFC process last year, the chair and adviser warned us about GAPSA’s previous efforts to remove SSFC members who questioned GAPSA’s use of money. 

As a graduate student, I want GAPSA to be well-funded, but I will only vote to fund programs that benefit all University students. GAPSA did not fear my one committee vote; GAPSA feared me asking them to prove that its programs benefit all fee-paying graduate and professional students. They also feared that allowing me to do so without retaliation would embolden other committee members to do the same.

The policy is clear: The only acceptable SSFC members are those who will vote to fund GAPSA at any level that GAPSA wishes. 

– Willie Wilberg, University student


We are fee-paying students representing GAPSA in Duluth in pharmacy and medicine.

Until two years ago, University of Minnesota-Duluth fee-paying students were all but ignored and did not receive benefits from our fee. GAPSA President Brittany Edwards took a day off and traveled up by bus with our pharmacy students in the spring of 2012 to visit us. Based on her conversation with us, we decided how meaningful it could be to have time to introduce GAPSA to our students face to face, so we planned a GAPSA Open House to introduce the organization to our students at the beginning of the year. This is similar to programming offered by our other leadership groups. It also allows us to have a voice in creating the policy platform in the larger student body for the year.

Edwards inspired us to take an active leadership role, and we now have a team of people who are regularly involved in meetings via interactive TV and in planning interdisciplinary programming for both programs. We have been active in governance on the University’s Duluth and Twin Cities campuses. We don’t feel that would be possible without face-to-face time with the board and introducing GAPSA to our students.

Last year, one of our Twin Cities pharmacy students voiced criticism of this change and chose to serve on the SSFC. When he applied again this year, we knew he didn’t respect the first principle of SSFC: “Fee-supported programs, activities and services shall be available to all students assessed the fee.”

GAPSA has a voice in deciding SSFC members for a reason: to make sure its students are represented by those choices. Two years ago, a member was removed because she didn’t understand the second-floor situation in Coffman Union. What’s scarier is blindly accepting the slate of candidates. We know Wilberg and don’t find him value-neutral, which is another tenet of the fees committee. It was for these reasons that he was removed.

– Ann Bergstrand, Kari Nohner, Wesley Franke, Ginelle Zimmerman, Lindsey Baumgartner and Angela Volkert, GAPSA Assembly-Duluth members