U must protect

Not all groups funded by student services fees are created equal; some must be particularly protected by the University. The pending lawsuit against the University, filed by five University students, threatens the structure of student services fees. The plaintiffs oppose paying for certain student groups, saying they “engage in political and/or ideological advocacy.”
While this lawsuit could possibly make student services fees optional, it is important to remember that not every organization is ideological in nature. Some organizations such as The Minnesota Daily, Radio K, Boynton Health Service, the recreation centers, the student centers and Student Legal Services provide essential services to the entire University community. The large number of programs offered by these organizations and their ideological independence place them in a position to serve a wide variety of students.
Consider one of these institutions, Boynton Health Service. During the 1997-1998 school year Boynton gave 2,000 flu shots, distributed 90,000 condoms and trained over 120 students in peer education programs, just to name a few of Boynton’s successes. With the help of student services fees, a number of these services are free to students.
Student services fees also go to the student centers — Coffman Union and the St. Paul Student Center. Both centers have study areas, cafeterias, concerts, organized activities such as the Winter Festival and movie theaters that preview new releases and showcase older films. With such a wide variety of activities every student should be able to find something to do at the student centers.
A biannual survey of approximately 500 students by the fees committee demonstrated the importance of these organizations. Of all students surveyed in 1996, 93.7 percent gave Boynton the highest rating at medium to high priority. Fifty-four percent said they use the recreational centers for self-service sports, with 58 percent agreeing to maintain the current fee system. Regarding the Daily, 64 percent read the paper more than once a week, with 53 percent satisfied with the current rates. In comparison only 15 percent put student governing bodies as high priority.
Should the lawsuit succeed, the non-ideological groups should not suffer the same losses as organizations that focus on particular groups of students, e.g., cultural centers, religious organizations and political groups. If these non-ideological organizations lose funding, drastic measures will need to be taken. Tom Madison, controller for the Daily, said, “If the revenue that we receive from student fees were cut down to zero, The Minnesota Daily would be devastated.”
The University must begin preparing for the worst. Any community requires certain services to survive — the news must be reported, the sick and injured must be tended to and recreational and entertainment facilities must be available. If the lawsuit ends in favor of the plaintiffs, appropriate changes should be made to the student services fees structure. In the end, the non-ideological organizations should still warrant a mandatory fee or the University should pick up the cost in order to ensure the security of these essential institutions.