MSA: No fees for U Pass

by Tracy Ellingson

The Minnesota Student Association has put its official stamp of disapproval on the University’s Parking and Transportation Services’ U Pass program, citing unreasonable funding proposals as its reason for rejection.
A 32-to-6 vote Tuesday at the group’s forum supported a resolution that praises the idea behind the U Pass, but also states that the request to fund the U Pass with student services fees is unfair because it asks students to pay for the department’s recent budget cuts. MSA also passed a resolution requesting that the Student Services Fees Committee not make any 1997-98 increase in students’ fees.
Transportation services placed a request with the fees committee earlier this year for 1997-98 funding of nearly $25 per quarter per student to initiate the program. In return, students would receive unlimited citywide use of Metropolitan Council Transit Operations buses.
“We have to say, while this is a great idea, University (department) cuts, in anything, will not be funded on the students’ backs,” said MSA Speaker Jigar Madia, who drafted and presented the resolution to the forum
MSA representative Heather Winter said she opposed the resolution because most of her constituents have told her they support the U Pass program.
“Students should be able to pay for this because we are obviously the ones who are going to use it.
“I don’t know where else the money would come from,” Winter said in response to the resolution’s advocates, who said transportation services should find another way to fund the U Pass program.
College of Liberal Arts Senator Robert Baker proposed an amendment to the resolution that supported fees funding for the U Pass. The amendment failed in a vote.
MSA President Helen Phin appealed to the forum to support the resolution because, she said, the group should not agree with a $25 fee increase in another department when their own organization is likely to receive cuts in its budget.
In its initial recommendations, the fees committee recommended that for 1997-1998 MSA take about a 14 percent cut in their current funding.
But the fees committee’s overall recommendations amount to about a $4 increase more than the current fee level of $156.68.
The second resolution introduced at the forum started out as a request for a 5 percent reduction in fees for next year, but was amended to state that MSA ask the fees committee not to place any increase in next year’s student services fees.
Resolution co-author Ben Powers, said the amended version of his proposal was “a step in the right direction,” but it goes against what the student body would like.
Representative Powers and co-author Eric Watkins, an MSA senator, said they surveyed students around campus about their opinion on a 5 percent reduction in fees. The two are circulating a petition asking for the reduction, which they will submit to the fees committee.
MSA members opposing the 5 percent reduction said cutting student fees would harm the organizations more than it would help students save money.
After the group passed the proposal for a freeze, Fees Subcommittee Chair Bill Gilles said it “will make us look again” at the committee’s most recent budget recommendations. The fees committee is holding public hearings this week and Saturday has its final deliberations.