Budget Gap prompts Student Senate subcommitee

by Samantha Stark

starksa@mnstate.edu

It’s student government’s role to be the voice of the student body. Senators serve to keep transparency between administration and students. But despite intricate governmental structures, administration doesn’t necessarily have to act on student recommendations.

“Other institutions have had big issues where their student governments weren’t involved in decisions or provided information,” student body president Sean Duckworth said. “Then they have to face the criticism of going along with the administration.”

On March 2, St. Cloud State University announced its cutting of six intercollegiate athletics programs — from 23 to 17 — effective at the end of this academic year.

“The decision to eliminate programs better aligns St. Cloud State’s sport portfolio with the athletics department’s mission and vision while addressing budget shortfalls,” the university’s website stated.

“(SCSU’s administration) forgot to tell their student president in advance,” Duckworth said, adding that SCSU’s student association president, Summer Vogl, found out at a student athlete event.

On Jan. 8, SCSU’s administration met with the student government and told them roster reductions were happening.

Vogl said the administration had been discussing the possibility of athletic program cuts, but didn’t tell student government which ones.

“They didn’t want to pin teams (against) each other,” she added.

According to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System policy, institutions’ administrations are required to consult and receive feedback from their student governments.

Since MSUM, alongside 18 of 31 other MnSCU institutions, failed its financial stress test this year, administration developed a Student Senate finance subcommittee for fall semester to maintain transparency and attempt to eliminate a St. Cloud scenario happening here.

“It’s going to be a difficult review this year, with the enrollment decline and budget gap,” Duckworth said.

Since February, the subcommittee — consisting of Student Senate members Courtney O’Reilly, Jesse Nelson and Dylan Green — have met regularly with vice president of finance and administration Jean Hollaar and other administrators to discuss MSUM’s finances and provide feedback. The subcommittee reports back to Student Senate for further discussion.

“As students, it’s not our job to solve the budget gap,” O’Reilly said. “But the subcommittee is a very important part of keeping a line of communication and transparency between the students and the administration.”

Duckworth said there’s no guarantee any of Student Senate’s recommendations will be put into action. At some institutions, administrators will meet with student government to “provide the appearance of consultation,” but won’t react to their suggestions, he said.

“If more students spoke up … they’d have to take us more seriously,” he added.

At its last meeting, the subcommittee introduced the possibility of employing the services of Open Educational Resources —  a source of openly licensed, online educational material alternative to costly textbooks — to assist budget issues.

“We’ve been able to have far more in-depth discussions about MSUM’s finances,” Hollaar said. “Being able to discuss those particular topics with students beforehand enables them to better advocate (with legislators) on behalf of MSUM.”

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