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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Student Fee Review Board ends deliberations

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After nearly 13 hours of deliberations and more than 25 hours of hearings, the Student Fee Review Board decided how to allocate an estimated $11.8 million.

The board raised student fees for fiscal year 2013 to $503.20, a $16.71 increase from this year’s fee of $486.49, despite aims to keep student fees low.

Following the Wednesday morning deliberations, the fee allocations were given to the President’s Strategic Budget Leadership Team, a team of advisers assembled by the president’s office to evaluate the SFRB’s recommendations. The recommendations can be reviewed and altered by either the SBLT or the SFRB until March 1. The SBLT has final say on fee allocation, but is likely to accept the recommendations.

Athletics

Board Chair and GPSA President Katie Richardson said funding an athletics program, specifically a failing football team, should take a backseat to academic concerns.

“I question whether we want to have a competitive football program; what if we take the football program down to Division II? Is it that important to the community and the University?” she said. “We have a wonderful basketball team and many other sports, but when I mention Athletics, people think of football and people laugh about it.”

UNM Athletics requested $3.5 million in student fees this year from the Student Fee Review Board, up from about $1.9 million it received in fiscal year 2012, but it will only receive $81.75 of the $149.73 it requested. Advisor to the board and Associate Vice President of Planning, Budget and Analysis Andrew Cullen said Athletics could face a more than $1 million deficit next year.

During the SFRB hearings, Tim Cass, senior associate director of Athletics, said the large increase in funding from students could propel the University into the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), a group of six big-name conferences that generate funds for Athletics, primarily through television deals.

Following discussion about the buy-out of former UNM head football coach Mike Locksley’s contract, Richardson said Athletics needs to clean up its act before it can receive more funding.

“We don’t have the dean of the libraries punching people,” she said. “Interpersonal violence in headline after headline is coming in about our athletes and coaches … and that needs to (change).”
Board member and ASUNM Attorney General Gregory Montoya-Mora said students need a voice in future decisions on coaching selections.

“I think if we are funding them, we should have a say on the board,” he said. “We should be able to have a say if we don’t want to hire a particular coach.”

Montoya-Mora, whose recommendation for funding Athletics was the lowest of the board at $51.75, said he pulled money from the program to fund organizations that better serve students.

Board member and ASUNM Student Court Chief Justice Dylan Hoffman, who recommended funding Athletics at a board high of $85.75, said Athletics is vital to recruitment and retention.

“I know when a lot of kids in high school are thinking about going to college, they consider that we have Division I athletics,” he said. “They were surprised that we give free tickets to all student athletic events, and I think that is one of the better things we do with student fees, something not all universities do.”

Board member and GPSA Chief of Staff Japji Hundal said a greater variety of athletics programs need to be supported by the administration.

“When we look at Athletics, we only ever look at the football team,” he said. “What I want to look at is the other programs. There are other sports, soccer, skiing tennis, cross country, track. All those programs are very important to the recruitment, graduation and retaining of students.”

Hundal said sports teach students life skills academics can’t.
“The entire amount they are asking for, I don’t think we are in a position to give, but there is some money that they deserve,” he said. “Sports teaches you how to fail and succeed and it teaches you a lot about life. It builds not only champions, but leaders. I am in a dilemma. You can’t tell a researcher their research is not important, and you can’t tell an athlete what they are doing is not important. I don’t want to evaluate this program as just a profit and loss statement.”

Board member and ASUNM Chief of Staff Cassie Thompson said Athletics draws much needed donations to the University.

“Whenever alumni donate money, generally it’s because of Athletics,” she said. “It’s the experience they get when they come back to the University and I think that funding helps supports other things. Often they donate to Athletics and simultaneously donate to other academic organizations.”

Information Technologies

Information Technologies requested $3 million in student fees for fiscal year 2013, a nearly 1,300 percent increase from this year, but the organization will only receive $16.39 of the $128.84 per student it requested.

Deputy Chief Information Officer for IT Moira Gerety, who was present at the deliberations, said budget cuts in recent years have spread technological resources so thin that students and faculty may not have access to important research databases, equipment and computers. IT took a cut of more than $2 million last year from the administration, a cut Gerety said is not sustainable.

Vice Chair and ASUNM President Jaymie Roybal said while funding IT the full amount would serve students, it is not financially feasible.

“IT has a lot of great ideas that would serve students, but these ideas add up to $3 million and I’m not comfortable with such a large increase in one year.”

But board member and GPSA Chief of Staff Japji Hundal said IT is vital to the success of students who need access to electronic databases and modern technology to complete their research.

“It is the backbone of academics and we need to support it to move forward,” he said.

Among improvements including increased on-campus wireless, power outlets and updated computers, Gerety said her top priorities if given funding would be to expand printing for students on campus.

“This year we set up the remote printing so students can print from their laptops, and next year we would like to add four additional print locations and expand the (remote printing) program,” she said.

Gerety said IT also requested roughly $400,000 in funding from SFRB to purchase additional software for student use.

“Right now, we preload the labs with software and only certain computers have certain software, but if I can only afford to buy 100 licenses, instead of sitting down at the computer that has that software, we can stream them from (IT servers) to any computer, including a student’s home computer.”

IT provided MatLab free to students this year, and Gerety said, if given the funding, IT could stream programs including Adobe and Microsoft applications, as well as specialized statistics programs.

Gerety said student fees pay part of the $10 a year printing allowance, which is good for 280 single-side black-and-white copies anywhere on campus.

“We set that quota based on an analysis of what students spent over the last three years,” she said. “I think it’s a pretty good estimate, we like to say printing is free for 80 percent of students.”

Board Chair and GPSA President Katie Richardson said IT will have to get its funding elsewhere.

“While I agree that IT is essential to student success, this is something that the administration needs to pay for,” she said. “I can’t help feeling like students are being asked … unreasonably to pick up the $2 million deficit.”

NMPIRG and Popejoy Hall

One of the most contentious funding requests the board addressed was the request of New Mexico Public Interest Research Group (NMPIRG), an organization that lobbies the state and national legislatures on issues ranging from health care to textbook costs on behalf of students.

The board voted to fund NMPIRG at $0.50, a decrease from the $2.26 the organization received last year, and the $4.84 it requested this year.

GPSA President and SFRB Chair Katie Richardson pulled 100 percent of her funding ($6.42) from Popejoy Hall, and redirected it to NMPIRG, spurring a round of criticism from the board.

“I feel like there are five zeros on NMPIRG and we need to have a discussion about this,” Richardson said. “You say Popejoy contributes to the college experience, I believe the same is true of NMPIRG.”

Board member and ASUNM President Jaymie Roybal said Richardson was undermining the board.

“I think it’s incredibly irresponsible of you to raise fees to offset a majority opinion,” she said. “You undermine one department to be a super hero to the other. You funded them more than CAPS, which you championed. You are cutting from Popejoy undeservedly.”

Richardson retracted her adjustment after the board made several comments questioning her decision. The board voted to fund Popejoy at $4.93.

Board member and ASUNM Attorney General Gregory Montoya-Mora said NMPIRG advocates for issues that aren’t supported by all students.
“I don’t support funding a political organization,” he said. “My recommendation is a zero for the board and for them to charter as a student organization (and they can get funding) through that means.”

Board member and ASUNM Sen. Angelica Gallegos reminded the board that NMPIRG funds a number of national staff who have never visited New Mexico.

“They hire professionals, many of whom are not located in New Mexico and aren’t available to students on UNM Campus.”

According to NMPIRG’s budget, the organization has no paid student employees.

Vice Chair of NMPIRG Kymberlee Boettcher said staff aren’t available because of their unique position nationally.

“We are the only organization that works in D.C. on student issues,” she said. (National staff) spend 100 percent of their time lobbying for us in Washington, D.C.”

Boettcher, who was present at the meeting, said she flew back early from a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with National Staff on behalf of NMPIRG to attend the SFRB deliberations. She said Roybal has been unresponsive to NMPIRG despite calls over the course of the last two weeks.

Roybal said she was unavailable due to a death in her family.
Richardson argued strongly in favor of supporting NMPIRG.

“NMPIRG provides a voice in the political (world) which no one else can contribute,” she said. “They are absolutely a department and program on campus with professional staff and are eligible for student fee support. (If they were chartered as a student organization), there is no way GPSA could afford it. Can ASUNM fund it as a student organization?”

Non-voting board member and GPSA Rep. Matthew Rush said cutting an organization’s funding is unfair.

“Clearly this organization does a lot of work on campus,” he said. “We can fund (specific initiatives), but cutting support for an organization completely is questionable.”

PATS

The Student Fee Review Board allocated conditional startup funding toward an initiative to create a bike share program on campus.

The board agreed to a one-time allocation of $50,000, conditional on raising the remaining $250,000 needed to fund the program through sources other than student fees, including donations and advertising.

Vice Chair and ASUNM President Jaymie Roybal, who has supported the bike share since her term began, said she hopes to raise the remainder of the funding by the end of her term in May.

Board member and ASUNM Attorney General Gregory Montoya-Mora said conditionally funding the program means students will only contribute the $50,000 if the program is successful in its fundraising efforts.

“We can’t lose this gamble, we only (pay) if we (get the funding).”

Non-Voting board member and GPSA Rep. Matthew Rush raised concerns that the number of students who would use the program is unknown.

“We need to go out and ask students how many are actually going to support it when we are looking forward and funding it,” he said.

LGBTQ Resource Center

Alma Rosa Silva-Banuelos, the only professional staff member of the LGBTQ Resource Center, lost her salary and will have to appeal to the administration for pay next semester.

All other resource centers receive funding from the Instruction and General fund and the administration to pay employee salaries. GPSA President and SFRB Chair Katie Richardson asked LGBTQ to find similar funding for Silva-Banuelos, and said the board will lend their support in discussions with the administration in achieving that end.

Silva-Banuelos, who was present at the deliberations, said she is concerned about the loss of her salary, but believes the administration will fund it at the request of the board.

“I trust that as the SFRB removes the professional salary, that they will work with the administration to guarantee I & G funding for professional staff for the LGBTQ Resource Center.”

“LGBTQ is 100 percent funded through student fees,” she said. “LGBTQ needs to find some portion from the administration to fund staff salary.”

The board voted to fund LGBTQ at $3.82, which is the center’s requested amount of $4.06 minus the amount spent on staff salaries.

UNM Libraries

A vote to fund UNM Libraries at $33.45 passed six to one following nearly 40 minutes of debate.

GPSA President and SFRB Chair Katie Richardson argued against increasing funding for UNM libraries, citing rising student fee support from $170,000 in FY 2005 to $675,000 this year.

“Student fees cannot continue to support electronic journal inflation at this rate.”

But Board Member and ASUNM Attorney General Gregory Montoya-Mora said supporting a 24-hour library is a top student priority.

“From talking to students about this, one of the biggest issues for them was “give me the 24-hour library back,” he said.

After a vote on an amendment requesting the administration to match an increase of $9.41 failed, and a vote to fund the libraries at the full request of $40 per student failed, Montoya-Mora transferred $20 from the amount he voted to allocate to Athletics to the library, raising the total average of all of the board members’ votes to $33.45. The board then passed the libraries at that average.

Recreational Services

Recreational Services requested $34.70 in student fees to maintain current recreation facilities at Johnson Center. In order to restore weekend hours to Johnson, Recreational Services said the organization would need $37.96 per student.

Advisor to the board and Associate Vice President of Planning, Budget and Analysis Andrew Cullen recommended the board split the cost of weekend hours with the administration by adding $2.54 to bring the group’s average to $33.69, conditional on a match of $2.54 from the administration.

“With a thousand new beds coming on campus, I think many students and parents would like a place for students to go, like a gym, on the weekends,” he said.

Board member and ASUNM Chief of Staff Cassie Thompson said keeping the gym open weekends will keep students on campus.

“If we can keep students on campus maybe they will go to the library after they go to the gym, and I feel that it really enriches the college experience,” she said.

Board member and GPSA Chief of Staff Japji Hundal said departments who use Johnson, including the College of Education and the Athletics Department, need to contribute additional funding to the center.

“If the College of Education is using the facility, I want the funding dollars coming from them,” he said.

Cullen said faculty and staff currently contribute $339,000 to the center in the form of payroll taxes.