Taylor Nelson (left) and Patricia Tedjasukmana (right) talk during the senate meeting. Photo by Chester Beltowski/The Dakota Student.
The stage was set for a marathon senate meeting on March 1, with the budget set to be discussed, and several other bills and resolutions on the floor. However, the budget took less than 30 minutes to be approved, leading into conversation on a resolution supporting a raise in the student technology fee.
A presentation at the start of the meeting by Vice Provost Josh Riedy and Director of CILT Lori Swinney explained how UND has not raised the student technology fee since 1995, and it is the lowest of the 11 NDUS institutions. The current rate is $4.17 per credit per semester. The increase would raise it to $9.80 per credit per semester.
“We’re trying to make up for inflationary loss in the last 20 years,” Riedy said. “But it’s also about looking forward to ensure funding levels are properly created. We are trying to get ourselves up to par.”
The additional funds would go to resources for student printing, student software, streaming and technical support on campus. There are also plans in place to upgrade buildings around campus to become more tech-friendly.
“There’s lots of space in Merrifield that’s just being wasted,” Swinney said. “Students are having to sit on the floor, and there’s nowhere to plug anything in.”
Members of the senate then spent almost an hour debating the resolution at the end of the meeting. President Tanner Franklin wrote and introduced the proposal.
“The fee was instituted in 1995 and has never been changed,” Franklin said. “A tech fee. One fee that should be changed. Witmer still has chalkboards. And one of the largest needs on campus right now is study space, and this will tackle that.”
Any increase of student fees of more than one percent has to be approved by the State Board of Higher Education, and several senators were concerned this would be above that mark. Franklin assured the body that it would be close to that, but wouldn’t surpass it. But some senators still weren’t fully on board to support the resolution.
“I think a lot of consideration needs to be put into this because it’s a $140 increase, which is a lot of money,” Senator John Mitzel said. “There are merits of the fee on its own. But just because it has a lot of merit it’s not something we should just sign off on.”
Senator Leah Larson disagreed and was on board from the start of discussion.
“The money needs to be placed somewhere, and this is a pretty nominal fee,” Larson said. “Everyone knows we need updates.”
The resolution was tabled until the meeting on March 8 to allow senators to do research and have all their questions answered.
The budget — presented by Franklin and Treasurer Matt Bluhm — was approved with only one small revision. That change moved the Vice President’s scholarship for the year from $10,000 to $8,000. The extra $2,000 was put into the Chief of Staff’s position to up that stipend to $4,000 per year.
“I’d love discussion on this but I think the committee did a really good job of putting it together,” Senator Ryan Brown said.
The total operating budget for the 2016 fiscal year is $627,043.84. That is down from $656,986.84 from this year.
Social host ordinance
Following discussion from the previous meeting, a resolution was introduced opposing the social host ordinance currently being considered by the Grand Forks City Council. The resolution states that the senate will not support the ordinance until several changes are made to the document, including a medical amnesty clause.
The senate approved one more bill at the meeting, suspending the current structure of the University Programming Council into a new structure for next year.
“There have been concerns about the spending amounts and we want to make the best use of student fees,” Franklin said.
The bill would allocate the $180,000 for UPC for next year to a new structure. The new structure would be revisited after one year.
The Dakota Student
A resolution was proposed that if passed would have supported cutting student fees from The Dakota Student’s budget, which makes up approximately 25 percent of the newspaper’s funding. After the Editor-in-Chief Will Beaton and News/Managing Editor Larry Philbin spoke as guest speakers at the meeting, the resolution was tabled indefinitely.
Megan Hoffman is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]