MSA fees committee process was faulty

Selecting the members of the Student Services Fees Committee is perhaps the most important task of the Minnesota Student Association. Since most votes MSA takes have little or no binding power over the actual administration of the University, the power the fees committee has is unique among student groups. Because the fees committee is so important, electing its members in a fair and unbiased manner is imperative. Unfortunately, the recent fees committee election was conducted in a troubling manner.
On Nov. 16, MSA approved the members of the fees committee in a 24-2 vote. The vote was the second one this year, as the original slate of candidates was found to be lacking. In an attempt to modify the pool of applicants, the application process was reopened. However, many student groups claim they were not notified about the new process and were subsequently unable to present candidates for election. MSA President Ben Bowman admitted that the closing of Coffman Union hampered his administration’s ability to provide timely information about nominees. While it is understandable that the circumstances made the distribution of information difficult, the solution should have been to postpone the vote rather than simply forging ahead and causing a flawed selection process.
The hasty process produced an extremely homogenous fees committee. Of the 15-member committee, two are women and two are people of color. On a campus that is half women and has a significant number of minorities, this disparity is troubling. Because the fees committee is responsible for funding groups that serve to make the campus more inclusive and accepting, the committee itself should reflect the statistical makeup of the University community.
The fees committee is the main forum in which students get to make binding decisions for the University community. The fees committee is entrusted with the task of allocating about $15 million in student fees monies. Traditionally, the fees committee has been fairly diverse and committed to funding the cultural centers and other organizations that help create a more inclusive University atmosphere. It is not unreasonable, though, for some to have a desire to have more conservative individuals on the fees committee. After all, some members of the University campus are conservatives, and it would be just as unfair to stack the fees committee with only liberal students as it is to fill the committee with only conservative members. What is unreasonable is creating a process that only informs certain student groups of the information necessary to apply for the committee and leaves other groups out of the loop.
The selection process this year was deeply flawed. Bowman picked a very bad time to conduct the fees-committee selection. The week of the move from Coffman Union ensured that all student groups would be busy with other important tasks and would not be able to give their full attention to the committee-selection process. Bowman should also have done a better job of guaranteeing that all student groups received the information about the new process. MSA should strongly consider recalling the committee and beginning a new and fair selection process.