Student apathy causes bias in fees process

Every winter, the issue of student services fees hits the papers, and with it comes yet another conflict within the Minnesota Student Association.
Last year, the debate centered around Bill Gilles, a College Republican whose position as an alternate on the Fees Committee was disputed. This year, the decision by MSA President Nikki Kubista and Vice President Erin Ferguson to submit the MSA fees request without prior debate within the MSA Forum was the fly in the ointment.
The lesson we can learn from this is that the student association cannot handle the fees process on its own. Yet MSA is theoretically the sole representative of the undergraduate student body concerning student services fees. As such, it is appropriate that the association appoint members of the Student Services Fees Committee.
However, two specific problems are built into the system. First, there is a conflict of interest in that MSA itself receives student services fees. Second, the association is not fully representative of the student body — Kubista and Ferguson were elected with 450 votes out of 1,520 cast; there are an estimated 25,000 undergraduates on campus.
If the undergraduate student body truly cares about how its fees are spent, then it must get more involved in the process.
As of now, the six members of the Fees Selection Committee are appointed by MSA and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. The president of each organization appoints the members. (The remaining two members are advisers to MSA and GAPSA.) This committee is responsible for selecting the members of the Student Services Fees Committee. Moreover, no appointees come from within MSA or GAPSA because members of the committee may not serve in a position within a fees-receiving organization.
Among the 17 members of the actual Fees Committee, the majority are involved with one group or another that receives fees. J.P. Meier, former president of GAPSA, Helen Phin, former President of MSA and Brandon Lacy Campos, current member of MSA, are all members of this year’s fees committee.
Sadly, this state of affairs is inevitable. Each year, a campus-wide e-mail is sent out to all students detailing the application process for aspiring fees committee members. Ads run in The Minnesota Daily publicizing the event. Yet the majority of people who apply for a position on the fees committee are involved to some degree with fees-receiving groups. This vicious circle results from the fact that they are the only individuals who really care how student services fees are distributed.
MSA only has one real power on campus, deciding how fees are allocated. Student apathy during elections demonstrates an apathy toward the fees process itself. Therefore, students have no right to whine when groups that they do not agree with receive their money. The time to speak up is not now, but on election day.
If undergraduates desire an efficient fees process with the utmost in diversity and fairness, then they need to support and aid the groups who now have sole ownership of the process.