Fees Committee begins its work

Another vital step in determining the amount of next year’s Student Services Fees has been completed. The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly along with the Minnesota Student Association were presented with the slate of 13 members and eight alternates who will constitute the fees committee. Both organizations, themselves fees-receiving groups, made no serious attempts to remove any of the 21 selected to decide the fate of the $15 million taken annually from students. The governing bodies actually have until Dec. 15 to finalize a decision, but after their last meetings of the semester, their smooth approval appears to signify a quiet close to what could have been a tumultuous battle among student representatives.
The strife surrounding the approval of last year’s fees committee had resulted in an ad hoc committee writing up new rules on the approval process. By adopting these new rules, GAPSA and MSA lost a bit of power, because instead of approving the potential fees committee members as they had in years past, they now only had the option of each removing two members before the Dec. 15 deadline. If they were comfortable with the composition of the slate, they could allow the date to pass, which would automatically finalize the choices of the fees committee members.
Though GAPSA and MSA have less of a final say in who will sit on the committee, this new system does not allow for the same second-guessing that was prevalent last year. It also places more faith in the four-person fees selection committee, which initially chooses the 13 members of the fees committee. A short application form and an interview are all they have to judge potential candidates for the fees committee. The standard bevy of questions never reaches much depth, and it would be easy for someone to deceive the selection committee if they wanted.
Despite the changes the ad hoc committee made to streamline the fees process, one must wonder what else led to this year’s lack of discord. Last year’s slate had four minorities, three women and five students associated with Students Against Fees Excess, a fiscally conservative student group interested in lowering fees. A chorus of voices arose, questioning, among other things, the cultural diversity of the slate. The supposed lack of ideological representation on the committee was also questioned, since five people were associated with SAFE. This year’s slate has four women, no minorities and five students associated with the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, an organization supportive of fees. Yet, other than some rudimentary questions about the lack of racial diversity, this slate, which closely parallels last year’s, hardly drew the same firestorm. This can partially be attributed to the fact that those who complained against SAFE-associated members last year have since gained a certain amount of control of the process, ensuring that voices that they agree with — their so-called diversity — will be well-represented on the slate.
The fees committee approval proceeded smoothly this year, though the politics that always come into play did not disappear. The slate’s attention can now focus on the fees requests, which are due this Friday at the Campus Involvement Center. The serious work of the committee is now ahead of them.

The author is a former member of both the Minnesota Student Association and the Student Services Fees Committee.