MSA moves to bar fees for unapproved building

The resolution would require student approval of fees for non-academic construction projects.

Cali Owings

The Minnesota Student Association passed a resolution Tuesday that would require student approval of any non-academic construction project that assesses a fee to students.
Over the summer, the Board of Regents approved a $60 million expansion of the recreational center, which students currently pay a $40 Capital Enhancement fee to fund. Students also pay a $12.50 Stadium Fee that supports the construction costs of TCF Bank Stadium. Students did not vote to approve either of these projects.
MSAâÄôs resolution will establish a referendum vote in the spring.
Buildings used for academic purposes like classrooms and research will not be subject to a vote.
Although MSA passed the resolution, it is not official until University administrators agree to the conditions. Everything MSA does is non-binding, but the next step toward making this process a reality is meeting with Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart, MSA Representative Quinn OâÄôReilly said.
OâÄôReilly said since there are no projects pending, MSA will be able to work with administrators before students are assessed any new fees.
There has been talk of renovating the St. Paul Student Center and adding a recreational facility on West Bank. OâÄôReilly said he thought administrators would be encouraged to keep the student fee as low as possible if these potential projects were subject to a vote.
OâÄôReilly, who authored the resolution, said he became interested in the issue after learning students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison approve construction projects that assess a fee to students.
In April, Madison students used that power to vote down a renovation to one of their recreational centers, which would have cost students $54.19 per semester beginning in 2013.
MSA has been campaigning for shared governance since last year, following in the footsteps of student governments like the Associated Students of Madison.
MSA Representative Paul Buchel said the resolution was a âÄúbaby stepâÄù toward giving students a voice in University matters.
Buchel said requiring all students to pay the stadium fee was an âÄúarrogant assumptionâÄù made by the administration that all students cared about Gophers football.
âÄúHow many times can we let the bully take our lunch money and still be okay with going to school?âÄù he asked.
Members of the forum expressed concern that students might not know enough about projects to vote on them or that there wouldnâÄôt be enough voter turnout in elections.
There was record voter turn-out during spring elections at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with 34.5 percent of students voting.
OâÄôReilly said voting on referendums that affect studentsâÄô fees would probably increase voter participation.
Last year, MSA elections boasted a record 14.28 percent voter turn-out.