MSA agrees on fees change

The group declared support for summer health care for all students Tuesday.

by Bryce Haugen

The Minnesota Student Association gave its support Tuesday to Boynton Health Service’s plan to offer all students summer care.

The position statement, which passed by a vote of 22-16 with three abstentions, said Boynton’s proposal would mean “more-complete health coverage” for “most undergraduates.” Before offering its endorsement, MSA rejected a statement that called the changes unjustified.

Boynton’s restructuring plan – which would eliminate fees for summer service but would pay for that change by asking students for $6.25 more during the spring and fall semesters – sparked the debate.

“We’re not asking for more revenue,” Boynton Chief Operating Officer Carl Anderson said at the meeting. “We stay neutral, and we’re actually able to provide more services.”

Boynton hasn’t asked for a fees increase in 11 years, he said.

Anderson said Boynton estimates up to 8,000 students will begin using services in the summer. And with an extensive marketing campaign, that number could increase, he said.

Plan supporters said they welcomed the change because 90 percent of students live in the Twin Cities area during the summer, Boynton officials said.

“It’s the same amount of money, and we’re getting more for it,” said Forum member Brian Peterson, drawing applause at the meeting. “It just makes sense.”

But opponents of Boynton’s plan said it is wrong to ask all students to pay for a service out-of-towners wouldn’t use.

“The majority of students who don’t take summer classes don’t see an advantage from the change,” Forum member Rubens Feroz said.

Third-year aerospace engineering student Tom Peitzmeier said he’s slightly irked at the fees increase because he “doesn’t get sick.”

“I honestly don’t know where (Boynton) is or how to get there,” he said.

On Jan. 25, the MSA Academics and Services Committee passed a position statement that opposed Boynton’s plans, despite committee Chairman Rick Orr’s objections. At Tuesday’s meeting, Orr introduced the resolution of support, which also asked MSA to review the effectiveness of the change next year.

Members narrowly voted to strike the language that called for the review. Supporters of the amendment said this year’s MSA shouldn’t tell future groups what to do.

“That’s not the way to build an effective student government,” said Orr, who voted against the amended position statement.

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly has not taken sides on the Boynton proposal. Because most graduate students don’t face the same lapse in coverage as undergraduates, GAPSA is waiting for MSA to take a stance before addressing the issue, said Karen Buhr, the group’s executive vice president.

“It’s not as big of an issue for us as it is for them,” she said.

Boynton is the second-largest recipient of Student Services Fees, getting approximately $181 per year from most students.

For the 2004-05 academic year, Student Services Fees appropriations totaled approximately $6.56 million.

The fees cover insurance co-pays and lab fees, among other expenses, but only make up a third of Boynton’s budget.

“Almost anything your insurance doesn’t pick up is covered by Student Services Fees,” Anderson said.

The Student Services Fees Committee will consider Boynton’s request before making its recommendations later this month. Because MSA’s position statement is nonbinding, the committee could still decide to deny Boynton’s request.

Even with no official power, MSA’s statement does send a message to the students that the group is being proactive instead of reactive, Orr said.