MSA fees committee members approved

Melinda Rogers

After nearly an hour of debate, the Minnesota Student Association approved the 13 students nominated to serve on the Student Services Fees Committee by a two-thirds majority Tuesday.
The association gave its final approval to the group of students who will be responsible for presenting the University’s Board of Regents with suggestions for the distribution of funds generated from mandatory Student Services Fees.
The Student Service Fees Committee is responsible for suggesting how much funding many student groups receive — a role which has been controversial in recent years due to some members’ involvement in fee-receiving groups.
But while many members of this year’s committee have ties to other student organizations, MSA member Aaron Street said new procedures will prevent conflicts of interest.
“A number of people (on the committee) are involved in some way or another with other student groups,” Street said. “However, they’ve all agreed to not participate in votes that affect the groups they are involved with.”
The new procedures stem from allegations raised by a group of students last year charging five committee members with harboring biases toward some student groups because they didn’t disclose their affiliation with the group Students Against Fees Excess.
This year the selection committee, which chooses applicants based on a broad list of criteria, was comprised of two MSA members and two members of the Graduate and Professional Student Association.
“After the controversy last year MSA and GAPSA formed a task force to review procedures,” Street said. “I think the new changes are good and should eliminate some of the problems we had last year.”
He added the changes are consistent with the Supreme Court ruling last spring which held mandatory fee systems are constitutional if the University distributes funds on a viewpoint-neutral basis.
Fees committee members involved with other student organizations said they don’t see their participation affecting their impartiality since they will not be allowed to vote on issues pertaining to their organizations.
“I joined the committee because I’m in MPIRG and I heard about it from the director, but I don’t think that involvement will affect my ability to serve on the committee,” said freshman Erin Kaufenberg.
“I hope to fairly distribute money we have to organizations and use it wisely,” she added.
The student fees committee has several tasks and responsibilities. They hold hearings on the value of funding various organizations and judge the fiduciary responsibility of groups.
The committee also makes recommendations on the funding levels for student groups, from student cultural centers and Radio K to The Minnesota Daily.
The student fees committee attends to the majority of its duties during spring semester, which includes conducting committee and subcommittee meetings, holding public hearings and determining final recommendations to the regents.
During the first stage in the process, student groups present budget requests to the committee to prove how the organization contributes to campus.
The committee then deliberates over funding levels and makes initial recommendations. The committee makes the suggestions public during hearings, and finally, the committee forwards its recommendations to the Board of Regents.
— Staff Reporter Pete Johnson contributed to this report.

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