Groups ready fee requests as deadline, finals near

Mike Wereschagin

As Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline for Student Services Fees requests looms closer, members of University student groups find themselves scrambling to finish term papers, study for finals and justify their group’s existence all at the same time.
The fees requests, which can run as many as 70 pages, will be the first step in the fees committee’s determination of which groups get funding — and which aren’t worth students’ money.
Kari Schirm, an international relations senior and member of the Minnesota International Student Association, said this puts enormous pressure on students at an already stressful time of year.
“The timing just isn’t very good,” Schirm said. “It would be better to do all this at the beginning of the semester or over the semester break. We have to put together an entire year’s budget and deal with everything else going on now. It’s almost impossible for students to do all that.”
Most student groups take a little more than a month to complete their requests because of the volume of information that needs to be included.
Alison Blomster said she has worked on the request for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Program since early November. Over the last week and a half, though, she has had to increase her hours on the project in order to complete the request.
“I worked on it for about eight hours a day for the last three days and had to put in even more time last week,” Blomster said. “Yesterday, I was in here working on it pretty much all day.”
Jason Vorbeck, co-chair of GLBT, said the reason it takes so long is because the process is “almost overly complicated.”
“The main problem is that all the groups are asked to go through the same process.”
Boynton Health Service, which is asking for $6.1 million this year, can have people concentrate just on the fees request, whereas student-run groups like GLBT have to find ways to fit the request preparation somewhere between classes, papers and sleep, Vorbeck said.
Though Schirm admitted the due date for the forms is ill-conceived, she said she understands the need for the process.
“The requests are basically a rationalization and justification of your group’s existence,” Schirm said.
The process of laying out the group’s purpose holds it accountable for every penny spent over the course of a year.
First, groups must show how their funding from last year was used. Along with that, they must outline reasons why the University needs their particular group.
“The fees committee wants to make sure they’re not funding a group whose contributions overlap four or five other groups,” Schirm said.
Also, members of the group must show how their organization contributes to the University community at large and not just to its members.
Gailon Roen, department director for Boynton, said the process is complicated in order to be standard.
“Years ago, there wasn’t a uniform method for requesting fees and that made it very difficult for the fees committee to compare student groups,” Roen said.
Boynton and MISA are asking for the same amount they were given last year. For MISA, the figure will remain $50,000.
GLBT, however, is asking for a $10,000 increase, bringing it up to $45,000.
The reason for the increase request is the status of the Coffman renovation, Vorbeck said.
“We have seen a serious cost increase since the move from Coffman,” Vorbeck said. “That was fine when we thought we’d be back in there after a year, but now that there is no date set for it’s completion, we can’t afford to put the costs off.”
After the forms are submitted, the student groups must wait until March or April to find out how much money they will receive.
Both Gailon and Schirm said they are cautiously optimistic.
“It is a worry that we won’t get what we need, but we try not to let it weigh too heavily on us,” Schirm said.
“There is always a concern,” added Roen. The $6 million will cover 37.5 percent of Boynton’s budget. “But we also have a lot of confidence in the students and those making these decisions.”

Mike Wereschagin welcomes comments at [email protected]