Black Student Union criticizes new student fee at SGA meeting

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The student government faced criticism from students Monday night about a proposed new $75 student fee.

Mel Klinkner, vice president for financial planning and administration, speaks to students at Monday’s Student Government committee meeting. At least 30 members of the Black Student Union attended to voice their concerns about the fee and gain information. Jason Brown | Photo Editor

The student government has proposed a $75 student fee to help administration close the $1.6 million budget shortfall. The plan was first proposed at an open forum last Wednesday and senate plans to vote on it in Senate Monday night. The draft outlines that the $75 per semester fee will go toward student services, services that President Alison Norris believes students value.

Fee Proposal Document: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3

“We wanted to have a fee that would directly affect students,” Norris said. “That they would notice if they didn’t have some of these things.”

Monday night, members of the Black Student Union, led by President Louis Erby, criticized SGA’s strategy in informing and communicating with students.

The largest criticism concerned email notification of SGA’s open forums for students to voice their concerns about the fee.

“Maybe we should have sent out more emails,” Norris said, “but we wanted to use a different tactic because there was smoking ban forums last year which had less turnout.”

Norris referenced that students were notified about those forums via email. A single past email was located in regards to a focus group asking students to contact Student Governor Peter Gregory if they were interested in participating in a focus group. Additionally, on March 21 an email was sent out to all students requesting applicants for SGA positions in the new administration.

With the new tactic, Norris wanted to target campus leaders at the President’s Leadership Committee. Using mouth-to-mouth, Norris’s wanted the leaders of organizations to inform other students about the forum. Erby was one of these student leaders, encouraging at least 30 members of the Black Student Union to attend SGA’s open-forum committee meeting.

“They came and voiced their opinions, and we were grateful for their opinions,” Norris said.

Brenna Nelson-Wilkes believes that SGA could have communicated better with students in regards to the proposed fee.

“If you want us to care about the things that are going on then you need to show us that you care if you want us as students to be responsive to what is going on around us,” Nelson-Wilkes said. “The only thing they advertised was their elections, and we don’t know anything about them.”

Jacob Scott, executive vice president and president-elect, said that communication is always a concern for SGA.

“Communication is always the $60,000 question,” Scott said. “With anything in life, how can we communicate in a society that is so capitalist that is so—trying to convey their own message and time is always of the essence. Can we convey what we want to do?

The main concern that really wasn’t addressed tonight was that students wanted to be communicated about a student fee but they don’t want to be communicated about every little issue of SGA’s. It’s finding that balancing act.”

Criticism wasn’t the only voice at the meeting. The Black Student Union also wanted to ensure that funding for the Center for Multicultural Education was secured since it isn’t included in the Save Our School Student Success Act.

Mel Klinkner, vice president for financial planning and administration, assured that the CME was not even being considered being cut.

Nicholas Brothers also spoke at the forum, attempting to rally students and administration to petition the State Government to increase revenue through taxes.

“Once again, we’re fighting the wrong fight,” Brothers said. “Let’s start yelling instead of whining.”

The fee proposal has accountability for the money worked into the legislation. The legislation calls for the formation of a special committee that will ensure that the funds are being used for what the legislation intends. Scott said that this accountability is unlike anything any other student government in Missouri has passed.

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