Student Fee Review Board reviews annual funding requests for 29 organizations as well as 7 one-time funding requests this weekend
The deliberations over what student fees should fund and by how much are underway, and recommendations show an overall decrease of $16.56 per full-time student compared to the amount students paid last year. Last year (Fiscal Year 2013), students paid $552.47 in activity fees, and the board recommends that this year (Fiscal Year 2014) they pay $535.91.
On Saturday and Sunday, SFRB deliberated about funding requests after hearing presentations from the groups during winter break and then holding public forums last week. Those present consisted of board members and alternates from ASUNM and GPSA, as well as several UNM faculty and staff representatives.
Funding for Athletics sparked a contentious debate among SFRB members.
Board member Richard Baca suggested capping the amount of funds SFRB would allocate to Athletics in the future in the interest of fairness for other on-campus organizations.
“There are relative increases every year. We need to be realistic in how much we fund them,” he said.
Debates over commercialization of universities through athletic departments grew heated, questioning both the role of student fees in relation to sports funding and how little other student organizations receive in comparison.
Last year, Athletics received $131.75 per student, and this year asked for $149.13, an increase of $17.38 per student. But for this year Athletics was recommended for $99.13 per student, a decrease of $32.62 from its current allocation.
The only organization that requested more than Athletics was Student Health and Counseling. Last year, SHAC received a $191.83 allocation per student. This year, SHAC asked for and was recommended for a $194.04 allocation, an increase of $2.21 per student.
After SHAC and Athletics, the next highest fee request was $66.02 per student for the Student Union Building. That allocation was unchanged from last year.
Together, these three largest groups account for 67 percent of total and per-student fees for the SFRB’s FY 2014 recommendations.
This similar to the recommended allocation for FY 2013.
However, the SFRB’s recommendations may turn out to be meaningless. Last year, the Board of Regents, which has the final say on student fee allocations, went against the SFRB’s recommendations and implemented a $50 per full-time student increase for FY 2013 to fund Athletics.
Board vice chair and GPSA President Marisa Silva said Athletics accounts for a large portion of student fees but benefits a relatively small group of students.
“This organization represents 500 students and is requesting 28 percent of our funds,” she said.
Baca reminded the board that board members are responsible for representing each organization requesting funding equally and fairly.
“We need to value each student equally,” he said. “A third of what students are paying shouldn’t go to one organization, unless we want to increase fees by $200 per student so that all these great organizations can get just as much support.”
The SFRB recommended to allocate 18 percent of its funds to Athletics.
Both repeat funding requests and one-time funding requests were up for debate.
Funding requests from many organizations, such as KUNM, the UNM Children’s Campus, and Career Services, passed easily and without debate. However, the debate for the Veterans Resource Center’s funding request took up the most time of any debate of Saturday morning.
The VRC requested one-time funding of $39,000 to pay for licenses for software that would be used to train faculty and staff to recognize signs of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans at UNM. It would also teach them how to help prevent suicide among at-risk students.
Board member and ASUNM Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Fleischer said the VRC requested this funding from the wrong place, because the money would not be directly for students or student services.
“I don’t believe that this was the correct avenue to request faculty training funds,” he said. “I think this would be better handled through (Human Resources.)”
Talal Saint-Lôt, an SFRB alternate from the Graduate Resource Center said that while the one-time funding would be used to purchase the licenses, it would do nothing to ensure those licenses were used and the money would not be wasted.
“There’s no guarantee that, if we fund this, faculty and staff will actually be using the software,” he said.
After nearly 45 minutes of debate with no consensus, ASUNM President and Chair of SFRB Caroline Muraida made a motion to continue down the list of requests, and to revisit the VRC’s request later on in the deliberations.
On Sunday evening, the SFRB voted to recommend against the requested one-time funding. However, the decision provided a recommendation that the software licenses be purchased by the VRC, SHAC and the LGBTQ Resource Center jointly, because those organizations all run similar prevention programs for at-risk students.
Another contentious debate came Saturday afternoon, concerning the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
The SFRB refused to recommend funding for the department’s annual project to build a race car for the Formula SAE student design competition. Baca said that because the department has not sought funding from other sources, such as grants, the department is not eligible for student-fee funding.
“If you look at, for example, the ECE’s robotics, they get grants from the Department of Energy,” he said, referring to the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. “I can attest how vital this is for UNM, so they need to seek out grants from executive agencies for such an important program like this.”
The mechanical engineering department has participated in the Formula SAE competition since 1998, and set records in the FSAE competition last year with a race car that could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds. The team placed 10th overall in the 2012 competition.
Board member Saheb Saini said the project is one of the most important and most successful projects of the University.
“Coming from a different country, this helps in showing what are the good sides of these colleges. Maybe UNM is not recognized for one thing, but this … will show our potential to the world and is putting us on the map,” he said.
After 20 minutes of deliberation on Sunday concerning funds for the LGBTQ Resource Center, the board decided to fund the center $3.82 per student, the same amount it was funded last year.
Deliberation over UNM’s El Centro de La Raza was an hourlong discussion among the board. Much of this was devoted to discussion over whether the board should fund an initiative that involved professional interns, as opposed to graduate students. The discussion concluded with a vote in support of funding one of the professional interns with the center. Finally, the board recommended funding the center $8.72 per full-time student, a lower amount than the center had requested. In FY 2013 the center received $6 per full-time student.
These recommendations are not final. The board has until Feb. 15 to submit its recommendations to the president’s Strategic Budget Leadership Team, which will in turn submit them to the regents.