More information will be needed before the Student Government Association can make any decision on a new fee for students.
At a joint committee meeting last Wednesday, SGA executives announced that they are still waiting on how the University will respond to the $3.4 million shortfall in the budget. The meeting was open to students and also acted a forum for opinion on the proposal of a new fee.
The Joint-Committee session focused on three main areas of discussion; where should the money from a fee be placed in the budget, how much of a fee should be levied and should the vote a fee be confined strictly to the Senate?
Senator Christina Jennings proposed that the fee be used for campus expansion or services initiatives. Nick Brothers, a student, believes that this resembles a slush fund.
“Frankly, I believe there’s a lot of room for abuse in that,” Brothers said.
Other Senators and students believe that the fee should be used strictly to maintain the current conditions of Western academic programs as well as services. Brothers suggested labeling the fee as a Budget Maintenance Fee for the sake of clarity.
SGA President Alison Norris said that since they don’t have all the information available, these questions can’t be answered, but they are still listening to the students.
“Before we can come up with a decision, there’s still a lot if information we still need,” Norris said. “We can’t really decide on a flat number and say, ‘put it toward this’ without knowing what the university needs.”
Norris, along with Student Governor Peter Gregory, will be attending the Budget Advisory Council meeting where more information on Western’s 2013 budget will be made available.
“When you give out information like that, they don’t want panic,” Norris said. “I mean, maybe if there’s jobs being cut…I’m not for sure what decisions they will be making they just have to be very careful how they do that.”
Gary Weidemann, a proponent of a student body vote on the fee, felt that the topic of who will be voting on the fee was not broached.
“It seemed like it turned around into a ‘maybe there won’t be student fees after all,’” Weidemann said.
Mel Klinkner, vice president for financial planning and administration, said that they aren’t trying to pressure SGA into passing a fee.
“We’ve tried to be very open and honest on where [the budget] is,” Klinkner said. We’re just laying out the case.”
With cuts from the state, Western faces a $1.9 million shortfall, not including an increase in costs.
“If the students decide to cover that shortfall then there isn’t a cut,” Klinkner said, “If they don’t approve it then I can’t tell you today where those cuts are going to be.”
Klinkner said that he doesn’t want to anticipate how students will react when voting on a new fee. He does hope that they realize that Western has already made significant cuts in the past few years. Even with a new fee to make up for the shortfall, Klinkner said that salaries would remain frozen.
“I would like to think they would understand,” Klinkner said. “If they don’t understand then they won’t vote for it. I get that.”
Weidemann said that if Senate votes on a fee exclusively, then it would confirm for students that SGA just works for the administration’s will and is not representative of the students.
Norris assures that SGA is always working with administration but is still the voice for the students, especially with a proposed student fee.
“If we were working for administration then we would have already passed it in Senate, we wouldn’t be holding these meetings asking students what they think, we wouldn’t be asking what a potential budget with be with cuts,” Norris said. “We’re trying to find the information that we can so we can make the best decision for students.”