U groups react to student fees cuts

Tom Ford

Reactions among University student groups Wednesday ranged from indignation to measured disappointment as the initial recommendations of the Student Services Fees Committee revealed many funding reductions and several complete cuts.

Totaling an overall decrease of almost $400,000 in next year’s student fees, 12 groups, including the Asian American Student Cultural Center, the Minnesota Student Association and Twin Cities Student Unions, were dealt funding reductions from last year.

Three organizations – Student Legislative Coalition, Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow and Maranatha Christian Fellowship -were denied funding entirely.

Representatives of student groups affected by the funding cuts said the various reductions will result in severe cuts in programming and even organizational dissolution.

Brandon Rowland, SLC legislative liaison, said the group will shut down if it doesn’t receive fees funding.

The majority of Subcommittee 3 said SLC wastes money duplicating the lobbying efforts of University administration and other student groups.

In response, Rowland said University administrators cannot directly represent students and most students don’t have time to spend at the Capitol, a sentiment echoed in the subcommittee minority position.

Since fees for SLC are optional, he said the subcommittee’s decision strips students of their choice to support SLC.

Despite the possibility of receiving fees money for the first time, Anthony Reel, an executive officer with Students for Family Values, said his group’s recommended funding level was a “slap in the face.”

Subcommittee 1 recommended $17,250 for SFV, approximately 36 percent of the group’s
$47,950 request.

In its rationale, the subcommittee said SFV overestimated its staffing needs and budget for stipends.

Reel said the recommendation will force SFV to choose between funding staff, rent or events.

“What the subcommittee has done is setting us up not to succeed,” he said.

Some groups were less alarmed about possible funding reductions.

Initial recommendations for the Student Emergency Loan Fund called for a more than $5,000 reduction.

Lance Patrick, the fund’s director, said the slice will force the group to spend its reserves sooner than anticipated.

But Patrick said the reduction won’t affect the group’s services and he is comfortable with the current level recommendations.

“We’ll make it work,” he said.

While some groups did receive fees increases, the hikes for several groups fell short of what they requested.

The Minnesota Daily received level two funding – the amount given last year – with a $50,000 increase to cover rising printing costs. The recommendation falls $80,000 below the paper’s requested amount.

Justin Erickson, the Daily’s business manager, said he was happy the committee recognized the newspaper’s needs and any funding increase helps.

Erickson said the additional funds, along with an improvement in a recently poor advertising market, could make it possible for the Daily to return to a normal summer
printing schedule in 2003.

Historically, the Daily is printed three times per week in the summer. But this summer, because of financial constraints, the newspaper will only be published weekly.

But he said without receiving its request, the Daily will be cautious about returning to normal staffing levels.

Dan Nelson, Subcommittee 1 chairman, said it appears this year members wanted to keep costs down.

“I generally got the impression that members really wanted the bang for their buck,” Nelson said.

He said in light of the many reductions, he encourages groups that have problems with their funding levels to make their voices heard.

“I certainly hope that all these groups will bring out as many people as possible to the deliberations and hearings,” he said.

Recommendations for the Minnesota International Student Association and Student Dispute Resolution Center were not made because of problems with budget information.

Members are expected to decide on recommendations for those two groups Saturday when the full fees committee begins initial deliberations.

Subcommittee recommendations and schedules for public hearings next week are posted on the Campus Involvement Center Web site.

Tom Ford covers the fees committee and welcomes comments at [email protected]