SAFE associates can vote on fees committee

The controversy concerning the Student Services Fees Committee has once again become a contentious issue. Four University students have brought allegations that five members of the committee failed to disclose their involvement with Students Against Fees Excess — a fiscally conservative student group. As associates of Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, they have sent memorandums to Jesse Berglund, chairman of the committee, demanding the five not be allowed to vote or deliberate on MPIRG funding. More is at stake than the $4.13 a semester that the group is requesting. The friends of MPIRG are demanding those with an ideology different than various student groups should have no voice on the committee.
The main issue for the friends of MPIRG seems to be that since the five members of the committee have had previous involvement in SAFE — either through endorsements or membership in the organization — that they can no longer be objective about funding for MPIRG. They base this on the fact that, in the past, SAFE was vocally opposed to MPIRG, once painting on a bridge panel: MPIRG = THEFT. Therefore, it seems the five committee members have a conflict of interest.
The major flaw in the reasoning of the friends of MPIRG is that in the context of the committee, a conflict of interest is not defined as a student’s political or ideological beliefs, but rather refers to involvement in a fees-funded group. It is inappropriate to vote on funding for an organization of which you are a part. So technically, there is no conflict of interest for the five committee members, since none have ever been a part of MPIRG.
Also, even as the friends of MPIRG acknowledge that none of the five accused are current members of SAFE with any links to the group, they seem to imply that there was a SAFE conspiracy to stack the fees committee, most notably because some of the accused did not disclose previous SAFE involvement. Even if SAFE were attempting to stack the committee, a cursory glance at their leadership changes makes it clear that the Republican-controlled anti-MPIRG stance of SAFE is in the past, replaced by a new, more moderate leadership.
Beyond all the rhetoric of a fair fees committee, everyone who is a part of the process realizes there is a fair amount of personal ideology involved. Obviously, fees-receiving groups hope personal ideologies do not prejudice committee members about these groups’ funding. This year will uphold the status quo. The friends of MPIRG have only shown that this committee is no different than previous ones: people with divergent viewpoints working together, trying to make change.
What is truly disturbing is not the friends of MPIRG’s allegations, but their wish to silence certain voices. After all, they didn’t ask that anyone with an ideology supportive of MPIRG refrain from voting, which would be fully consistent. But by only targeting former members of SAFE, the friends of MPIRG show they have no interest in fairness and are pursuing a one-sided committee, where any perceived voices who might be against the group are silenced. The decision-makers who decided the five committee members could still participate in discussions and voting about MPIRG are truly upholding a marketplace of ideas.