Provost derides fees bias coaching

An adviser alleged liberal bias in the decision process.

by Cali Owings

An adviser for Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow encouraged students to be dishonest on their applications to the Student Service Fees Committee.
In an e-mail sent to all the students on the University of Minnesota College Republicans listserv, Bill Gilles highlights ways conservative students can get on the committee and âÄúremove a $1 million advantage liberals have over conservatives in fees funding.âÄù
Gilles wrote that students should draw attention to their graduate student status, or the fact that they are minorities.
âÄúMinority status is also a bonus (color, country of origin, sexual preference, etc.) and should be noted on your application,âÄù Gilles wrote.
The e-mail also encouraged applicants to refrain from including information about conservative activism.
In the e-mail, Gilles wrote that students should apply even if they didnâÄôt have time to be on the committee because if they werenâÄôt selected, it would reveal the bias of the administration.
The application for the Fees Committee closed Sept. 20, and it is unclear how many students applied using GillesâÄô advice.
Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart notified student leaders of GillesâÄô message Wednesday.
Rinehart said he wanted to make students aware of what âÄútacticsâÄù are being used by CFACT.
Rinehart said GillesâÄô suggestions were irresponsible, without integrity and unethical.
Rinehart said it was âÄúcomplete hypocrisyâÄù for CFACT, a group that had argued for viewpoint neutrality, to try to get on the committee to advance its own political interest.
While he said it was good to encourage students to apply for the fees committee, Rinehart said offering âÄútips and tricksâÄù was âÄúsneaky.âÄù
In the past, he said, CFACT and other conservative groups have appealed Fees Committee decisions, claiming the committee had a liberal bias.
But CFACT is the top fees-receiving student group, behind the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and the Minnesota Student Association.
In an interview, Gilles said he still believes liberal groups receive $1 million more in funding than conservative groups.
But GillesâÄô and RinehartâÄôs definitions of liberal student groups differ.
Gilles tallies up the Student Service fees that go to the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, the WomenâÄôs Student Activist Collective, The Minnesota Daily and GAPSA.
Representatives from CFACT, MPIRG and the College Republicans declined to comment.
âÄúEverything that is not strongly conservative is perceived as liberal,âÄù Rinehart said of GillesâÄô
Gilles said the Office for Student Affairs and the Vice Provost donâÄôt want conservatives on the Fees Committee, citing the removal of Sean Niemic last year from the Administrative Units Fees Committee.
Niemic was removed in violation of RobertâÄôs Rules of Order, the laws which govern student government meetings, and had no chance to defend himself, Gilles said.
âÄúIf you identify yourself as a conservative on the committee, you make yourself a target for getting removed,âÄù he said.
âÄòFaith in the processâÄô
âÄúThe fees process has now been compromised, essentially, at its earliest point,âÄù said Ryan Kennedy, GAPSA president.
It is up to the fees committee selectors âÄî two representatives from GAPSA and two from MSA âÄî to determine who will be members of the Fees Committee.
The fees selectors question candidates to determine whether they can make decisions objectively.
Kennedy said he trusted the GAPSA fees selectors but was concerned about the viewpoint neutrality of the MSA selectors.
Wesley Halseth, the Vice President of CFACT, is one of the fees selectors from MSA.
Devin Driscoll, a fees selector from GAPSA, said he is hopeful that most of the applications will be honest.
âÄúI have faith in the process,âÄù Driscoll said. âÄúI have faith in the individuals who want to give their time to this valuable student service.âÄù
The Fees Committee is supposed to evaluate student group applications for funding without considering the viewpoint
of the group.
Rinehart said the Fees Committee should evaluate the quality of each groupâÄôs proposal and its impact on campus.
Rinehart said Gilles and those who claim he has a bias fail to understand that he has no desire to intervene or increase student service fees.
He said he would like to keep student service fees as low as possible but still build a âÄúvibrant student community.âÄù
âÄúI trust that the decision-making of our students will prevail.âÄù