Fees committee states goals for funding decision

by Raiza Beltran

Brought together by a need to make a difference at the University, the five-member student services fees subcommittee II is a group with similar objectives despite having a diverse range of interests.
The Student Services Fees Committee was elected to allocate more than $15 million from student fees to 28 student groups. The committee is currently hearing budget presentations from those groups for next year’s funding.
The fees committee recently fueled debate and controversy among Minnesota Student Association representatives. In November, a number of student groups said the slate lacked diversity. Of the 13 student-members on the committee, three are women and four are minorities.
Jared Christiansen, an inter-college program senior and the subcommittee II chairman, asked other student groups not to judge the committee based on their appearance and interests.
“It’s not fair to look at a group of people and judge them. Each person has their own ethical values,” Christiansen said.
Although the subcommittee might not represent the diversity on campus, its members do have different interests; it is comprised of students from three colleges and an administrator from the Office of the Vice President.
The subcommittee handles the budgets of five student groups, including Radio K, The Minnesota Daily, MPIRG and Boynton Health Services.
“It’s an interesting mix (of groups),” said College of Liberal Arts sophomore and committee member Jende Huang. “I’m learning stuff I didn’t know much about. There’s more detail than just walking in their office and finding stuff about them.”
Huang, an MSA representative at-large, was also a member of other organizations, including the University Atheist and Humanists, Focus on Animal Contribution for Science and the University Coalition for Choice.
Huang said his drive to be involved led him to the fees committee. “Considering it’s $15 million, (the fees committee) really has a direct influence on everyone.”
Other members of the subcommittee expressed similar sentiments.
“This is one of the few times when students have the opportunity to decide where their money goes,” said Christiansen, who previously served on the fees committee in 1998.
Christiansen, however, is not the only experienced member of the subcommittee. Mary Amundson, the budget director for the student development vice president’s office, has served on the fees committee for the past six years.
“I represent the administrative perspective on issues … to provide some balance and, in some instances, a global perspective,” said Amundson, a University alumna. “It also gives me an opportunity to work with students.”
Amundson said she is continuously impressed with the fees-committee students.
“Sometimes there’s a lot of hard debate, but when all is said and done, the students do the right thing,” Amundson said.
As president of the College Republicans, political science junior Mike Franklin was among the fees members targeted by the student groups.
“Everybody involved in the fees process is involved in the fees-receiving group,” Franklin said. “We’re evaluating student groups on how they’re responsible to students and to themselves.”
Civil engineering senior Nick Dille said serving on the fees committee is a commitment. “I take enough time to review and prepare before the presentation.”

Raiza Beltran covers student life and student government and welcomes comment at rbeltran@daily.umn.edu. She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3225.