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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Page address: http://www.mnsu.edu/mssa/news/html/studentdemands.html

MSSA Honors Students' Demands, Keeps Fees Minimal

Senate decision based on balancing the needs of student organizations with lack of student support in raising fees.

by Emmeline Elliott

Issue date: 4/19/07 Section: Senate Notes

The cost of student activity fees was decided by the Minnesota State Student Association at its meeting Wednesday.

Student activity fees will increase by $0.20 per credit, largely due to contracted salary and benefit increases. That automatic increase, coupled with fewer students enrolled at Minnesota State next academic year, led to tight budget recommendations from the Student Allocations Committee (SAC).

In an effort to keep student activity fees from increasing further, SAC consistently did not fund new staff positions or programming money. Of the 23 items in the budget asking for funding, 20 received less than what was requested or stayed the same as the current allocation.

The senate listened to six groups who appealed their 2007-08 student activity fee allocations and then passed all the SAC budget recommendations as a whole.

SAC Chairman Brett Fleck presented a rebuttal after each appeal where he repeatedly stated that SAC tried to maintain fiscal responsibility and meet student demands of not increasing fees. He referred to a survey from last semester that showed of 2,000 respondents, nearly 70 percent said they did not support an increase in fees.

Fleck also noted the negative student response when the free parking lot was facing a potential $20 fee and that 56 percent of students voted not to pass the campus recreation proposal.

The Blue Earth Review was hardest hit when none of its budget was approved. The Review worked with a $7,370 budget this year and asked for an increase to $10,000 next year. SAC recommended no funding for the publication, citing that it served very few students and was difficult to recognize its association with MSU because of its title.

Health Services acting director Wendy Schuh appealed its psychiatry position not being funded. The current psychiatrist services MSU five hours a week and would be able to commit 10 hours next year, Schuh said, and $40,000 for the position had already been funded by maintenance and equipment money provided by the administration. Schuh said the position deals with mental health issues and can help counsel students dealing with traumas like what happened at Virginia Tech Monday.

Fleck said that health services have a $1.3 million budget and should be able to find the remaining needed funds for the position.

Both the International Student Organization Director Tom Gjersvig and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center Director Jessica Flatequal appealed receiving less than what they requested because the groups had been under-funded in the past.

Fleck said the SAC recommendations held no personal meaning and are only trying to keep student fees low by not funding programming requests this year.

Student Leadership Development and Service Learning Director Kelly Meier asked the $12,000 budgeted for Flipside Entertainment events not be cut.

Fleck said that the requested money was actually just moved to fund homecoming and that organization should be able to find funding for Flipside in its $516,000 budget.

Women's Center Director Deirdre Rosenfeld said she was happy the SAC was consistent in its recommendations but still asked for a one-time $15,000 allocation to celebrate the group's 30th anniversary next year. She also said incidents such as at Virginia Tech show a need to fund women's centers because of the different way women and men deal with relationships and that domestic violence is often not recognized as a crime.

Senators then discussed a motion on whether they should pass the budget as a whole according to SAC recommendations or if they should vote on each item.

Fleck said each item in the budget had a chance to present its budget to the MSSA and SAC during the year. He said because so much time had already been spent debating the budget, he did not feel it was unjust to pass the recommendations as a whole.

Graduate Studies Senator Kristeen Giese said the senate should vote on each request to be sure the campus provides for student needs.

The motion to approve the budget recommendations as a whole passed in a 15-9 vote.

"The hardest thing about the budget process was turning things down that you felt could really benefit the student body," Fleck said in an interview.

The amount of requested fees equaled $4,357,199.

The MSSA allocated a total of $4,009,371 in student activity fees for the 2007-08 academic year.

At last year's MSSA budget hearing, the senate allocated $3,988,458.

In other senate news, MSSA President Gabe Afolayan vetoed a motion passed last week to support the LGBT's request for M&E dollars from the administration. The motion supported M&E funding for diversity organizations and specifically mentioned LGBT, which Afolayan said "places priority on the concerns of one group above all others."

"It is inherently unethical to use the representative influence of the MSSA, which represents all diverse groups, to prioritize issues for one diverse group in particular without soliciting concerns of all diverse groups on campus," Afolayan said in a statement.

Emmeline Elliott is a Reporter staff writer