December 7, 1998

SGA takes no action on fee increases

Controversy over SGA deadlines prompts adjournment

by Josh Renaud
staff assistant

SGA President Jim Avery (left) and Vice-President Micheal Rankins answer questions at Thursday's SGA meeting.
photo by Stephanie Platt

SGA adjourned Thursday without making any recommendation on a series of proposed increases in student fees.

Gary Grace, vice-chancellor for Student Affairs, made an informational presentation of the 1999-2000 Student Housing, Facility, and Activity Fees Budget. The budget included a 6.2% increase in the athletic fee and an 8.5% increase in the recreation/facility fee. Grace said that the budget also included a change in the student Health Services fee from a flat fee of $9.00 a semester for fall and winter and $4.50 for intersession and summer session to a $1.20 per credit-hour fee.

Grace explained that the UM System prepares a preliminary budget for all four campuses, and then sends them out. When the University receives the information, it triggers planning by people who are involved in Athletics, the University Center, Student Activities, Student Services, Recreation and Facilities, and Student Health Services, all of which are covered by the fees budget.

"The procedure requires us to then consult with students," Grace said. "I represented the administration and I will share the concerns of the students with the chancellor, who will share them with the Board of Curators."

After the presentation, SGA Vice-President Mike Rankins voiced his anger over the fee increases.

"Students are telling me that the fees right now are way too high," he said. "If I'm supposed to represent students on this campus, how can I go another year and let the fees go up?"

Rankins proposed that the SGA consider making a resolution to recommend zero increases in any student fees. He said that this would be a way of sending a message to the Board of Curators.

"The Board has turned a deaf ear to what we have to say," Rankins said. "These fees will be raised regardless of what we say or do. It's time to send a wake-up call."

Several students objected to Rankins' idea, saying that sending a hostile message to the Board of Curators might be counter-productive.

Rankins said he felt that the SGA and the student body were always left out of the decision-making loop.

"The Board sends out recommendations on what they think the fees should be and [SGA] is asked to approve those fee increases," Rankins said. "With the exception of the Student Activities and Student Services fee, we have absolutely no power at all over what the fees end up being. We can say what we think, but we can't change it."

Another complication came up when Rankins complained that the Board of Curators hadn't provided the student fees budget information to the University soon enough for any real discussion to take place.

After a controversial $6.05 per credit hour fee increase was passed by SGA in a non-binding resolution last year many assembly representatives complained they hadn't had enough time to consider the fee hike.

"Last year we passed a resolution in the student government," Rankins explained. "It states that fee increases of any type that are to be voted on or approved by the SGA must be presented to the SGA body in writing, no less than 30 days in advance of their being voted or commented on."

"That didn't happen this year," Rankins added. "They presented them on the same day, despite our having made it very clear that this was not acceptable and was against our own rules."

Grace said, however that the SGA played a role in the delay. He said that the University received the student fees budget information in mid-October. To complete the information, he needed the proposed Student Activities and Student Services fees from Rankins and SGA President Jim Avery.

"They both knew we needed those two fees," he said. "I had wanted to get the materials out by November 16, but we didn't get [their input] until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving."

Rankins said he was confused about Grace's account.

"The board is what held this up," Rankins said. "I don't know why Dr. Grace and I aren't on the same page about this."

After the SGA adjourned without taking action, Grace said that he would talk to the chancellor and vice chancellors about the opinions expressed at the meeting.

"I have written e-mail to vice chancellors Jim Krueger and Reinhard Schuster; that was a synopsis of the meeting," he said. "I will brief the chancellor about the meeting, and describe the student concerns over the process not having enough time and the concern with these fees going up."

Rankins said the next SGA meeting would be held before the Board of Curators meet on Jan. 28 to discuss the budget.

"We can at least see what people are thinking about the fee increases," Rankins said. "It may be too late to hold any vote, but there will be a petitioning of the Board. Either myself and Jim Avery will do it, or SGA as a body will do it."

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.

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