Jones ups proposed TCSU, groups fees

Robyn Repya

University officials overturned five Student Services Fees Committee recommendations on Friday, tacking a boost onto the Twin Cities Student Union’s request and nudging up figures for a few cultural centers.

Vice President for Campus Life and Vice Provost Robert Jones passed the slate, with approval by University President Mark Yudof, to the Board of Regents for finalization.

Jones raised recommended funding for the Africana Student Cultural Center by $7,129, the Disabled Student Cultural Center by $6,518 and the Minnesota International Student Association by $15,000. He added $777,335 to the TCSU recommendation, fully meeting the group’s request.

“These organizations have a very central role in providing a rich experience (on campus),” Jones said.

After the recommended increases, next year’s Student Services Fees will increase 5 percent, from $267 to $280.22 for students on the Twin Cities campus.

The fees committee TCSU funding recommendation was controversial, as union officials accused some student committee members of bias and said they’d be forced to drastically cut activities if the recommendation were approved.

Jones said he raised funding for the TCSU operating and bond repayment budgets to ensure Coffman Union will be successful when it reopens.

“Once you make a commitment to renovate that building, you have to make sure it’s financially viable,” he said.

Jones said it was necessary to increase the TCSU budget in order to provide high-quality programming, food and events in Coffman Union.

“It’s very important to have a place to really nurture a sense of community,” he said.

Doug Karle, a fees committee member, said he was surprised with Jones’ decision.

“TCSU has demonstrated that they
cannot handle the students’ money responsibly,” he said.

Karle said TCSU budget presenters didn’t answer all the fees committee’s questions and the organization has had a lot of “unanticipated expenses.”

He said by giving the cultural centers more money, Jones isn’t holding those groups accountable for their financial management.

“If these student groups would manage their money effectively, they would have better programming,” Karle said.

Jones said he has worked with TCSU and he’s convinced they operate efficiently. He said there is no evidence the groups have mismanaged their funds.

Despite the increases, Jones said the overall budgets for the cultural centers have still been cut.

“They actually represent a $13,000 reduction for cultural centers,” Jones said.

Jones said he’s only been involved with the fees process for two years but in his experience, making changes to the student recommendation is not unusual.

Jones said he respects the fees process but in these instances he felt the student body was not being represented, so he made changes on its behalf.

“It was a very difficult decision,” he said. “It is not a decision I took lightly.”

Other student organizations didn’t fare as well as TCSU in the administrative evaluations.

Jon Gill, a member of the Maranatha Christian Fellowship, said his group has applied for Student Services Fees the past three years and left empty-handed each time.

“We feel they don’t want to give us money because we’re a religious group,” he said.

Gill said he feels the University is biased against Christians and Maranatha is always given excuses for the lack of funding.

He said since the group was criticized for poor financial records, it has made changes. But it is still unable to secure student funding.

“We haven’t been given any money to work with, so how can we have financial records?” he said.

Gill said the fees distribution is one sided because money is given to groups with opposite views, such as the Queer Student Cultural Center, and Maranatha is given nothing.

“We are outspoken about a lot of things that aren’t politically correct,” he said, “If things are just given to one side, that’s not an open forum.”

Gill said although the recommendations don’t go in front of the Board of Regents for finalization until Friday, he doesn’t hold out much hope for this year.

“We’ll keep trying,” he said.

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