MSA budget fails

There weren’t enough reps. for a vote, and members disagreed on leadership stipends.

by Kyle Stowe

After a contentious debate, the Minnesota Student Association failed to pass a budget for fiscal year 2014 at its Tuesday forum.

This delay means MSA won’t be able to disburse grants to other student groups for at least two weeks, or until it passes a budget, possibly causing cancellation of some campus events for groups that rely on the money.

At the Tuesday meeting, group members discussed how to spend the undergraduate student government’s nearly $200,000 budget, but they were at odds over how to fund stipends, and not enough voting members were at the meeting to make a decision.

Matt Forstie, an MSA member and chairman of the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, said delaying the budget will cause “huge problems.”

Almost 18 percent of MSA’s proposed budget would have gone to stipends for group leaders. This spurred backlash from some MSA representatives in attendance, including Drew Christensen, Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow’s representative to MSA.

“I don’t know how you can justify it,” Christensen said. “Students are taking on outstanding levels of debt, working incredible hours to try to pay their tuition so we can pad the pockets of MSA leadership, and I think that’s absolutely despicable.”

MSA received more than $181,000 in student services fees funding for this school year.

Forstie said he was disappointed some student group representatives didn’t bring their concerns to MSA leadership before Tuesday’s meeting.

“They just want to make a statement about their political beliefs, that we shouldn’t use [student services fees funding] to fund student government,” he said.

Controversy regarding stipends for student group members became an issue last year during student services fees recommendations.

Forstie said in the meeting that the Student Services Fees Committee has traditionally been supportive of stipends for MSA leadership.

MSA’s stipends didn’t receive any significant cuts during last year’s fees cycle, but stipends for some student groups, staff and student officer wages were slashed.

Ehren Minkema, the Mock Trial Association’s representative to MSA, said they should outline the leadership’s responsibilities because they are currently unclear.

“[This] makes it extremely tough for us to keep our officers accountable and keep the people that are using our student services fees money in order to pay for their position,” he said. “It’s not okay.”

MSA President Mike Schmit said he disagrees with cutting leadership stipends for all student groups, including MSA, adding that MSA’s stipends spending increased because it added leadership positions.

Schmit said he couldn’t afford to serve as president without his $5,000 stipend and said he understands this is the case for many student group leaders.

“It allows me to put in the time and not take a job on campus,” he said.