Cuts in funds may hit groups

The fees committee made large cuts to several organizations on campus.

by Bryce Haugen

A divided fees committee recommended deep cuts to several administrative units at public deliberations Monday at Coffman Union.

The Student Services Fees Administrative Units Committee, mostly voting 3-2, recommended large cuts to the Twin Cities Student Unions, Radio K, The Minnesota Daily and Summer Cultural Programs.

The five-member committee also slashed funding for University Student Legal Service after initially funding the group’s full fees request. But it reversed its initial decision to cut Boynton Health Service’s program budget by $126,000, instead recommending a $40,000 cut.

The committee also increased its funding recommendation for the Student Dispute Resolution Center after initially offering no increase from last year.

This year, each University student taking six or more credits paid $275.50 in fees per semester, mostly to administrative units. If approved by the Board of Regents in June, the committee’s recommendations could mean lower fees for next year.

The fees committee’s recommendations will next go to Jerry Rinehart, the associate vice provost for student affairs, who can change the recommendations. Last year, Rinehart reversed the fees committee’s decision, but he said in February that overturning fees decisions is “dangerous,” and he hopes to avoid being involved.

Throughout the almost three-hour meeting Monday, many audience members, who were required to remain silent, gasped and shook their heads as the committee voted.

Minnesota Programs and Activities Council President Molly Gale said the committee’s recommendation to cut $300,000 from the council will mean fewer events.

“You’re going to have about the quarter of the programming you have right now,” she said. With the fees reduction, Gale said, the activities council will be able to hold 175 events next year, compared with 750 this year.

Committee member Mark Annis said he proposed the funding cut to give the money to student groups for events.

But because the student organizations fees process is over, it’s too late to give the money to student groups, said Dan Levin, the Administrative Units Committee chairman.

“That (money) isn’t going to go to student groups,” he said. “That $300,000 is not to exist.”

Fees committee staff representative Jill Merriam, a voting member, said the cut will “devastate the program,” including homecoming and Spring Jam.

The fees committee also recommended cutting The Minnesota Daily’s fees funding to $358,000, after initially offering $497,000.

Annis, who proposed the cut, said the Daily had spent money on training instead of funneling to reserves.

With such a deep cut, the Daily will need to run a deficit, co-publisher Melissa Lappin said. She said the newspaper’s reserve would run out in six years.

“We’d have to start cutting everything,” she said.

Annis said giving the requested funding would just “put money into their reserves.”

Merriam said the Daily’s bank and auditor have told it the reserves are not high enough.

The fees committee decided to grant Radio K $10,000 more than its initial $100,000 recommendation.

Fees committee member Aaron Solem, who was absent from a supplemental public hearing Friday, said Radio K deserves a funding cut because it fails to appeal to a broad campus audience.

“This is not going to kill Radio K by any means,” Solem said.

But Levin said the station deserves more funding because it has made progress toward its goals.

“(A funding cut) is not going to destroy Radio K,” he said. “It’s going to destroy progress.”

After the committee recommended $110,000 in fees, which is $37,000 lower than Radio K’s fees request, station officials expressed grief.

“I’m going to cry,” said Sarah Sandusky, Radio K’s marketing director.

Andy Marlow, Radio K’s station manager, said, “It was absolutely political.”

Marlow said Solem, along with Annis and committee member Brian Edstrom, formed a conservative voting bloc and didn’t listen to the facts.

Mark LaCroix, Radio K’s program director, said the group will now appeal to Rinehart because the fees recommendations will force the station to cut its staff.

“There is no valid argument against us,” LaCroix said.

In other business, the committee granted Summer Cultural Programs $40,000 after previously granting $60,000.

The committee also reversed two decisions affecting the department of recreational sports. It voted to fully fund the department’s operational expenses and grant $700,000 for predesign on recreational sports facilities proposals. Initially, the committee denied the debt service request and cut the operational budget by $50,000.

After the meeting, Levin said the committee did a good job.

“Nothing was really surprising,” he said.