$1 trillion: the surprise cost of people watching?

Campus People Watchers’ unusual request is a protest to the student fees process.

by Cali Owings

As a tongue-in-cheek protest of the fees process, the Campus People Watchers requested $1 trillion in funding Saturday during its presentation to the Student Services Fees Committee.

The meteoric rise in the groupâÄôs funding would cover its intended purchase of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, the group said.

But if that request is too much for the University of Minnesota students to finance, CPW will settle for $2,271 âÄî its total projected operating budget for 2011-12.

The request wasnâÄôt one of the groupâÄôs many social experiments but rather a protest against the treatment of new and small groups in the fees process.

CPW President David Shaffer said he has been frustrated with the system for a long time. He served on the committee that reviewed the fees process this summer.

Last year, the group submitted a request for $2,739.89 which was denied in a 7-2 vote. The committee recommended that the group show “evidence of a broader community impact” before requesting funds again.

“Most groups put on a face that gets them money, but I think we give back to the community in a more nontangible way,” club member Scott Luisi said.

CPW supports other student groups like Students for Gluten Free Awareness and Knitting for Peace by attending their events.

Shaffer and other members of the group felt the committee doesnâÄôt take smaller hobby groups seriously in the fees process.

“A group gets money because theyâÄôve gotten money before,” Shaffer said.

He was referring to parts of the application that review how much money a group has requested and received in the past. He said this process caps the creativity and potential of student groups like the people watchers.

Shaffer told the committee he has spent more than $300 out-of-pocket to support the group.

“Little groups will not succeed without any help,” CPW Vice President Katie Derbyshire said.

Because the cost of transportation sometimes drives people away from its events, Derbyshire said the funding would allow more people to attend.

Several of CPWâÄôs events and experiments occur on campus, but longer trips like the Mall of America scavenger hunt can get expensive for students who donâÄôt have a U-Pass.

The group has tried to secure funding through participating in the Department of Psychology Research Experience Program, but Derbyshire said that hasnâÄôt been effective.

During its elaborate presentation to the committee, the group presented its research on the estimated cost of Minnesota. Members told the committee it was less expensive than they originally thought, so they could probably afford Wisconsin and Iowa as well.

Several members of the committee laughed quietly, but the mood remained serious. Despite the absurdity of the request, the committee probed for answers regarding their real proposed operating budget.

“It would be interesting if we did get funded,” Shaffer said. “We just wanted to turn heads.”