Group reveals initial funding

Bryce Haugen

Two Student Services Fees subcommittees released their initial funding recommendations Tuesday, leaving some student-group leaders disappointed and others elated.

This year, 31 student groups asked the subcommittees for approximately $1.65 million in fees. In the initial report, the subcommittees offered the groups $1.23 million for the 2005-06 school year.

Most of the $22 million University students paid in Student Services Fees this year went to administrative units, such as Boynton Health Service and the Twin Cities Student Unions. But it’s the student groups’ requests that typically spawn controversy.

Denied funding

Most organizations that asked for fees in past years received approximately the same amount this year. The initial subcommittee report called for no funding for three returning groups – the American Indian Student Cultural Center, Crisis Point and the Minnesota International Student Association.

Kapil Bansal, the international student association’s president, said he felt “shocked” when he heard about the report.

“This is the largest student organization on campus,” he said. “If we don’t get something done, a lot of students are going to be disappointed.”

When the fees committee granted the association’s full request of approximately $89,000 last year, the final report said the group “provides an invaluable service to the University community Ö which warrants full funding.”

But this year, the association’s request had inaccuracies and lacked the information necessary to grant fees, said Steve Wang, fees committee chairman.

“The (subcommittee) really didn’t know anything about how much money (the association) wanted or what they wanted it for,” he said.

Bansal said the association will appeal the decision.

The Hmong Minnesota Student Association was denied funding for the second-consecutive year.

Group Vice President Mai Vang said that if the recommendation stands, the group will have to reduce the quality and quantity of programming.

In its report, the fees subcommittee praised the group for “exceptional success in fund raising,” but Vang said the association cannot maintain its impressive pace.

“It’s been way more than we can handle,” she said.

Without additional funds, programs like financial aid and leadership workshops for high schoolers will suffer, she said.

Wang said that because the decisions are initial, recommendations could change after full committee deliberations Friday and public hearings next week.

“The biggest difference is we have four new people joining the debate,” he said.

Happy with the report

Leaders of Hillel, the Jewish student center, expressed relief about the fees committee report.

In March, the fees committee only funded one-third of the group’s $24,500 request. On Monday, the subcommittee unanimously recommended fully funding the group’s request.

“Because of funding decreases from their main outside national supporter, they need additional funds to continue their mission,” the subcommittee report stated.

Harrison Sklar, the Hillel Student Board treasurer, said the group can now spend more money on events and advertising. This year’s fees committee recognized the group’s needs, he said.

“I was overjoyed, but I’m not all that surprised, because we put together a good presentation, we made our point and we convinced them that we are the epitome of a fees-receiving organization,” Sklar said.

The fees subcommittee also recommended full funding for Community Child Care Center. Last year, the center received its full request of $60,000, but only after public outcry over an initial subcommittee recommendation of no funding.

Fees money is essential to keep the center operating, said Mickey Pearson, a preschool teacher.

“We rely so much on these fees for bare-bones-type things,” he said.

If the center can supplement child-care costs, parents “can continue to go to school at the ‘U,’ because they are able to afford child care,” Pearson said.

Try, try again

After last year’s fees committee recommended no funding, a reprieve saved The Wake student magazine from closure. But this year, the subcommittee report recommended a $30,000 funding increase for the 2-year-old publication.

Morgon Mae Schultz, The Wake’s editor in chief, said the additional money will allow the semimonthly magazine to purchase new equipment and start publishing weekly in spring 2006.

The group requested a $60,000 increase, but “we were shooting for the stars,” Schultz said. She said that after last year’s tumultuous fees process, any increase was welcome.

“We feel that some of the great debate that happened last year really called attention to the report that was needed in the process,” she said.

The African Student Association, which was denied funding last year, also found success this year. The subcommittee granted its full request of $10,000.

Several other student groups, including Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists, and Voices Merging, also received funding recommendations for the first time Tuesday.

– Matt Graham contributed to this report.