University Student Services Fees Committee holds public forums

The forums brought both supporters and opponents of the revised policies.

Sadelle Schroeder

At public forums Monday and Wednesday nights, student group leaders voiced both concern and support for revised student service fees policies, including the proposed removal of caps on stipend spending.

An initial report from the Student Services Fees Review Committee addresses previous years’ problems with late applications, appeals, reserves and staff compensation.

On Aug. 30 the committee released its revised policies, which include a checkpoint system for the application process and a reformed appeals system.

Sean Niemic, vice president of Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, attended Monday’s forum and raised questions about the unrepresented number of students who pay student service fees but do not directly benefit.

“We need to be mindful of the opinions that are not represented in this committee,” Niemic said.

Student Services Fees Review Committee Chairwoman Bree Dalager said that all students have the opportunity to become involved in the process, regardless of their position within or outside a student organization.

Kate Goerdt, co-chair of Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, used the public forum on Monday to thank the committee for revising the 30 percent rule — a regulation that previously kept organizations from paying stipends to students or outside staff in excess of 30 percent of their total budget. On Wednesday evening Marisa Wojcik, also of MPIRG, echoed Goerdt’s statement.

“We at MPIRG work very hard and we care about our issues,” said Wojcik. “We work with things that directly affect students on campus. We are very pleased we can have a more positive effect on campus.”

The committee’s recommendations aimed to remove the 30-percent cap to allow requests to be processed on a case-by-case basis.

Niemic, supporting the cap, was concerned about groups paying stipends too liberally.

“Groups that can operate at 30 percent [stipends] don’t need to pay 80 percent,” Niemic said, responding to MPIRG’s messages of gratitude. “Students should not be made rich through these organizations.”

Quinn O’Reilly, a SSFRC member, agreed that the cap helped keep spending in check.

“I hate that student groups pay staff. I think 30 percent is a good cap,” O’Reilly said. “It allows flexibility to pay stipends, but a cap protects students. More money goes to events.”

Paul Freeman, a graduate student and a member of the committee, aimed the conversation at what he believed to be the source of the debate.

“I think we have a problem with the student organizations’ sense of entitlement,” Freeman said. “Remember that there are tens of thousands who pay this fee. There is no option, they have to pay — and they should have a say where their money goes.”

Groups paying stipends of more than 30 percent were mostly administrative organizations operating at an unusually high stipend in order to fully function, such as Boynton Health Service, Dalager said.

Freeman remained adamant that no group should be able to opt out of the rules.

“If we aren’t comfortable applying rules, the rules should not exist,” Freeman said.