Students may lose say in fees
Student leaders are striving to ensure that their constituents will continue to have a say in the majority of student fee allocations in the future.
Officials from the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico and the Graduate and Professional Student Association have teamed up to express their disapproval of a potential proposal regarding the University’s comprehensive fee policy.
ASUNM President Isaac Romero said the policy could take away the Student Fee Review Board’s authority to provide recommendations on student fee allocations to the Athletics Department, Information technology, University Libraries and Student Health and Counseling.
“Right now the Student Fee Review Board has the recommendation authority on every organization that comes and presents to the SFRB,” he said. “What the comprehensive fee essentially does is it takes those four organizations previously mentioned out of SFRB, so students no longer have say in recommending amounts for those organizations.”
At the moment the SFRB provides preliminary budget recommendations before passing them to the Strategic Budget Leadership Team, Romero said. The SBLT then forwards the recommendations to the UNM president before facing the Board of Regents for final approval, he said.
The comprehensive fee would partially disrupt this process and would give the authority to decide on those four departments to the regents alone, Romero said.
“The bottom line is it takes away students’ voices,” he said. “We have these organizations that students pay for, but students would have no say as to any accountability … It’s kind of removing the conversation that we could have with those entities for student feedback.”
But Romero said nothing is sure about the comprehensive fee at the moment.
GPSA President Priscila Poliana said the student governments first caught wind of the policy in the last school year. She said that most of the information about the policy was verbal.
“It was never in written form,” she said. “But what I’m hearing about it was conveyed by the administration. Isaac and I first heard about it in a meeting of the Tuition and Fee Policy Committee in August.”
According to a memo signed by Poliana and Romero forwarded to the regents in August, “The SFRB only has recommendation authority over 48 percent of the total amount collected in student fees. These proposed changes would reduce the amount of fees with direct student oversight to less than 15 percent.”
Romero said the policy might have been a result of past pushes by the regents to alter SFRB recommendations in the four departments, such as Athletics.
“In the past, SFRBs have given why they think their recommendations should be withheld,” he said. “It’s that issue of ‘Why are we putting (in) all this time and work for us to see what these organizations do and for the regents to change them?’ That’s the frustrating part.”
Last year the SFRB recommended that Athletics receive $2.3 million in student fees for FY 2014. The recommendation then went to the Board of Regents, which has the final say on appropriations. The regents overrode the SFRB’s numbers and instead allocated $4 million to the department.
This year, the SFRB chose to approve the Athletics’ budget request of $4 million.
But Poliana said she wants to ensure student representation in the yearly student fee allocation process.
“Whether the administration takes it or not, that’s part of the process,” she said. “But we’re part of the process because we’re the body that is seeing all these applicants. But we do understand that only administration can decide. They have the authority to change our recommendation.”
Poliana said she is optimistic that the comprehensive fee policy would not go into effect soon.
“We’re very positive that we would find a reasonable compromise,” she said.
To make the student fee allocation fee process more efficient in the future, both student governments have formed a work group to rewrite Policy 1310, which upholds the SFRB’s authority to provide recommendations on student fee allocation, Poliana said.
“We have a working group of people from both student governments getting together to find the most appropriate solution to this problem,” she said. “The problem that I’ve been hearing from the regents is that there is a general misunderstanding with respect to the fact that students only make recommendations and allocations … There is a need to manage expectations.”
Poliana said the student governments had asked UNM President Robert Frank about the opportunity to rewrite the policy to clarify it for future purposes. She said the work group might have the proposed rewritten version of the policy later this week.