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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Students: Don’t make us pay Athletics’ debts

protest
By ZHIBIN HONG / New Mexico Daily Lobo

GPSA Representative Talal Saint Lot (left) and Black Student Union President D’Andre Curtis don homemade signs to protest the Board of Regents’ proposal to raise student fees and tuition. About 100 students, faculty and community members attended the protest, which was hosted by ASUNM and GPSA.

UNM students and staff gathered on the Cornell Mall on Thursday to protest a proposed $77 student fee hike.

About 100 people, including members of GPSA, ASUNM, the Student Fee Review Board and Graduate Employees Together attended the protest.

Although a decision on the University budget has not yet been made, the Board of Regents will discuss the proposed increase at the budget summit meeting today. Members of GPSA, ASUNM and SFRB encourage all students to attend.

The Student Fee Review Board submitted its fee allocation recommendations for the 2012-2013 school year earlier this month. The potential $77 increase, proposed by the Board of Regents, would tack on an additional $50 per student for the Athletics Department and an additional $27 per student for Libraries to SFRB’s recommendations.

SFRB 2012-2013 recommendations included an $81.75 allocation for Athletics, the same amount Athletics received this year, and a $33.45 allocation for Libraries, a $4.18 increase from what Libraries received this year.

The proposed $50 increase for Athletics would be used in part as a loan to pay off the department’s $1.5 million debt, Regent Don Chalmers told the Daily Lobo earlier this week.

GPSA Lobby Committee Co-Chair Travis McIntyre said the proposed increase will substantially affect graduate student retention rates. He said GPSA surveyed graduate students, and 20 percent of survey participants said they could not afford even a $50 increase in student fees.

“The regents are saying they don’t want to see athletics programs get cut, but would they rather have the Athletics Department get cut, or the graduate students get cut?” McIntyre said.

GPSA presidential candidate Marisa Silva said paying off the debt of any department is not the responsibility of students.

“The Board of Regents is asking us to hand over money to bail out the Athletics Department that has been fiscally irresponsible,” she said. “That is not the students’ responsibility to just blindly hand over money.”

GPSA President and SFRB Chair Katie Richardson said the protest was a chance for students to understand the full amount they might have to pay next year. If both the increase in fees and tuition are passed, students would face a $536 increase from this year’s tuition and fee costs.

“There is still an opportunity to make changes in the University budget and make sure that it reflects student wishes,” Richardson said. “We already pay $81.75 per student to Athletics. The increase will put that number at $131.75 per student in Athletics’ fees alone.”

GPSA and SFRB member Matthew Rush said the SFRB recommendation for Libraries would be used to cover computer updates, programming and special events, and to reinstate a 24-hour library service. Rush said the administration needs to find another way to pay for journals and periodicals.

“We do find funding the libraries critical to the academic mission of the University,” Rush said. “But we don’t believe student fees should be paying for it.”

If the proposal passes, student fees will be raised to $580 per student, a $94.51 increase from this year’s fee of $486.49.

Richardson said the 20 percent increase is significantly higher than SFRB recommendation of a 3 percent increase in student fees.

GPSA Tuition and Fees Committee Chair Sarah Coffey created a petition in which students marked which increases they were opposed to: the tuition increase, the fee increase, or both.

“We plan to present these to the Board of Regents tomorrow morning at the budget summit,” Coffey said. “We want students to be further represented at the meeting.”

During an emergency meeting Wednesday, ASUNM passed a resolution in opposition to the proposed student fee increase. The regents will review the resolution at the budget summit today.

“We fought over it yesterday, we’re fighting about it today and we’ll fight for it at the budget summit,” ASUNM Vice President Adrian Cortinas said.

While many participants at the protest also condemned the 3 percent proposed tuition increase, GPSA and ASUNM representatives said they were not as concerned about the tuition hike.

The ASUNM resolution contains language that opposes the fee increase, but states that “if a tuition increase must occur, students expect that the integrity of the degree they will receive upon graduation will be improved.”

The resolution also calls for greater student involvement in the tuition-setting process.

GPSA has not released any official documents regarding the proposed increases.

The Board of Regents will reach a final decision on the budget April 27.

Budget Summit
Friday 9 a.m.
SUB Ballroom C