GAPSA takes a stand against using student fees for stadium

JP Leider

In their first meeting of the academic year, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly representatives reaffirmed their opposition to a University-mandated student fee supporting an on-campus football stadium.

GAPSA is composed of councils that represent graduate and professional students at the University.

The resolution, which passed with a 13-12 vote by secret ballot, states that GAPSA will request that the stadium be built without student fees, except as a last resort.

If the University chooses to impose any fee, the resolution calls for the fee to then become optional for graduate and professional students, citing financial hardships for those who aren’t willing or able to pay.

During the meeting, several University officials updated GAPSA members on the stadium construction project, fees associated with the project and why support from graduate and professional students is important to the project being realized.

The projected cost of the stadium sits at $235 million, with the University bearing 60 percent of the price, or slightly more than $140 million.

Stadium plans call for students to contribute $52 million.

Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said at the meeting that if the fee were to become optional, the worst-case scenario – where no graduate or professional students elected to pay the $50-per-semester fee – would decrease funding by $14 million.

Several GAPSA members contended that such funding could easily come from elsewhere, citing both the University’s fundraising ability and the projected $3 million-per-year additional revenue the stadium will bring.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said the additional revenue is important for supporting the University’s 25-sport athletics program.

“Part of the challenge we have is to become totally self-sufficient,” Maturi said.

Only three sports, men’s basketball, men’s hockey and football, create a profit, he said.

In 2003, GAPSA passed a resolution opposing a student stadium fee except as a last resort.

The Minnesota Student Association currently supports undergraduate students paying a potential fee of up to $50 per semester.

However, that position statement does not conflict with GAPSA’s push for an optional fee, MSA President Emily Serafy-Cox said.

“The language (of the statement) would allow us to take that position, but we haven’t taken a position on that issue,” she said.

Many graduate and professional students at the meeting expressed sentiments that the University’s claim of student support is disingenuous.

GAPSA Senator Kris Houlton said during the meeting that University officials have basically ignored GAPSA representatives’ input during stadium advisory board meetings over the past year.

Serafy-Cox also said the University has “seemingly ignored” GAPSA’s position.

“The University has not been talking about the graduate student position,” she said.