Student groups remain concerned over stipend cuts

Student groups requested a total of about $660K to pay officers.

Student groups remain concerned over stipend cuts

Cody Nelson

 

Khoa Vu made about $600 last year as president of the Minnesota International Student Association. Next year, he and other board members, who work more than 20 hours a week, will earn nothing.

MISA is one of several student groups that had significant cuts to stipend funding by the Student Services Fees Committee, causing concerns about programming and involvement for many groups.

Additionally, some say there’s a double standard in the SSFC’s final recommendations for next year’s funding.

Without stipend funding, “there’s less incentive for people to work hard,” said Vu, whose group received none of the almost $10,000 it requested in stipends.

Katie Saphner, chair of the student groups SSFC, said it seemed stipend cuts “hit the closest to home” at public hearings last week, where multiple student groups protested their funding recommendations.

About 20 percent of student groups’ funding requests were for salaries, wages and stipends, Sahpner said, so the student group committee analyzed requests carefully to make sure they were in line with SSFC guidelines, which state student groups must fully justify their use of staff.

“Fees money to pay staff should only be used if they are a necessary component of a group’s ability to provide high-quality, relevant services to students,” the guidelines state.

A total of about $660,000 was requested by all student groups for wages, salaries and stipends, but the committee recommended only about 60 percent of that funding.

Although groups put in requests for specific line items, like stipends, they can choose to spend fees allocations however they want.

“… the wide cutting of SSF funds from student stipends was not representative of a single-minded desire to cut all leadership stipends,” Saphner said in a letter to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart.

SSFC adviser Megan Sweet said in a previous Minnesota Daily article that this year’s committee looked at stipend funding requests more carefully.

MISA, which aims to bring together international students on campus, holds about 70 events each year, Vu said. He worried that there may be a decrease in quality for events around campus.

Cuts in stipend funding, he said, might also lead to some student group board members to take on better paying internships or jobs.

“It’s not fair anymore for them,” he said, adding that just putting group involvement on a résumé isn’t enough for all student group leaders.

Christopher Hammerly, president of the American Indian Student Cultural Center said the paid positions are of importance especially for the AISCC, which also received none of its $3,250 request for stipends.

“I think a lot of American Indian students need [a work opportunity] quite desperately,” he said. “The money isn’t there for them.”

Hammerly said the group may have to put more responsibility on its board members or attempt recruiting others to volunteer at the front desk.

A ‘double standard’

Mick Hedberg, Minnesota Student Association’s speaker of the forum-elect, said there’s a “double standard” in stipend cuts, adding that MSA received no significant cuts to its stipend funding.

MSA was allocated all of its $30,000 request for salaries for 2013-14.

Saphner said there wasn’t a double standard.

She said student government and student group publications like “The Wake” didn’t have their stipends cut because they have their duties written into University policy and a need to create content, respectively.

“The committee feels that the cuts to stipends were 100 percent viewpoint-neutral,” Saphner said.