The Oregon State University Student Fee Committee held an open hearing Monday, Nov. 26 in the Memorial Union Horizon Room. It opened with an explanation of the main goal of the meeting: reviewing student fee budgeting and discussing the proposed budgets for all 10 student-fee funded units on campus. Those organizations and the public had a chance to make comments, and then the SFC voted on their fee level recommendations for each program.
These fee recommendations will be reviewed by the Associated Students of OSU Congress, ASOSU President and eventually OSU President Ed Ray and the university Board of Trustees.
By Morgan Mawn, News Contributor
The first topic of discussion was the the Orange Media Network budget, of which The Daily Barometer is a part. There were three new options, as well the originally recommended fee, proposed to the board.
The liaison for OMN, Natalie Lutz, emphasized the importance of the fees for participants in OMN. Explaining that with fees to improve and replace equipment, anyone can create media without limitations.
“With increased fees it can continue to be an accessible organization,” Lutz said.
After a five-minute recess, the meeting continued on and asked for public comments. No one stepped up to the microphones set in the audience, and a motion was brought forward to vote on the recommended fee level. The motion was passed and the vote ended with 12 people in agreement and two people on the committee abstaining. The recommendation for OMN are $19.71 per student per fall, winter and spring terms, and $11.48 for the summer term.
The next topic was the fees associated with the Family Resource Center. The committee discussed the importance of expanding funds for the center due to a growing projected number of people using their services. The committee almost immediately moved into accepting public opinions, but after no public comments were offered a motion was made to vote on the recommendation. The decision was in favor of the fees, but a committee member asked to discuss the decision further.
The chair of the student parent advisory board, Terese Jones, stepped up to make a public comment and explained to the SFC that the FRC is extremely important for keeping student parents in school.
“Support for childcare helps retention of student parents,” Jones said.
After the comments made by Jones, the committee moved into another vote that ended in favor of the new fees once more. The recommended fees that will go toward the Family Resource Center will be $10.27 fall, winter and spring terms and $4.21 in the summer term.
The third group discussed was Diversity and Cultural Engagement, coming in with a recommended fee level of $33.46 fall, winter and spring terms and $9.04 in the summer term.
Some committee members explained that they were torn about the size of the fee level, but Millicent Taylor, an at-large member of the body, said that DCE has a lot of impact on campus.
Moving into public comments, this point was further emphasized. Many people stepped up to the microphones to explain why they believed the program’s funding is crucial for student life.
Sierra Joyner, an employee at the Native American Longhouse Eena Haws under DCE, explained that the budget for DCE needs to be larger to cover the important events that the program hosts, after explaining how NAL employees were forced to limit attendees to an event due to lack of funding.
“I see that as excluding part of the community that wants to be part of it,” Joyner said.
It was also brought up that the NAL has gone to outside sources to raise money for things that they believe should be covered by the school. An employee of the Pride Center explained the importance of providing a place for those in the community to feel safe and receive basic necessities they may not be able to get elsewhere.
Sienna Kaske, the leadership liaison at the Hattie Redmond Women and Gender Center, told the SFC that marginalized people coming to the center are able to find a place where they feel accepted and welcomed.
“At our houses, they feel safe,” Kaske told the committee.
After the many speakers, the time for public comments was closed and a vote on the proposed recommended fee began. The vote ended with 13 committee members agreeing to the fees, securing the recommendation of a larger budget for DCE.
With few public comments and a brief discussion amongst the SFC members, Student Leadership and Involvement got their proposed fees secured. The fee recommendations for the organization are $36.96 for the fall, winter and spring terms and $23.42 in the summer.
The Human Services Resource Center’s recommended fee levels are $12.15 for the fall, winter and spring terms and $2.86 for the summer term.
Additionally, for the Memorial Union, the recommended fee levels for the fall, winter and spring terms are $58.54, and for summer term $47.96
By Jaycee Kalama, News Contributor
Approaching the second hour, the SFC discussed the recommended fee level for Recreational Sports. This was a quick vote that all members voted yes on, with no public comments. It was decided to recommend that during the fall, winter and spring terms, there will be an $86.77 fee for all recreational sports.
Performing Arts was the next unit discussed. One student thanked ASOSU for advocating for students’ needs. He mentioned that he has had many new experiences through Marching Band because of the funding the unit receives from student fees.
The recommended fee level for fall, winter and spring terms was $6.97 per student. After some confusion from the board, there was a two-minute break to clear up any miscommunication about the agreed-upon fee. Once the meeting had continued, the recommended fee was accepted.
Following the vote was another ten-minute recess. Much of the public attending the meeting conversed with each other, discussing upcoming subjects. Many of these people were student athletes who came to the meeting to advocate for the next topic – the Athletics budget. Unlike most of the previous topics, athletics would be lengthy and debated, as warned beforehand by the committee.
The recommended fee level was set as $40.61 during the fall, winter and spring terms. This is a $53,000 reduction from fiscal year 2019. One member of the public explained that Oregon State Athletics bases their funds on the lowest rates in the Pac-12. Along with the recommended fee level, there were two decision packages to choose from, as well.
The first package proposed a $41.41 fee per student per term. This package is the FY19 projected fee income. The second package recommends a $41.00 fee per student per term. The second decision package was a $26,495 reduction from FY19.
One impact of the reach of the current budget is the free sports tickets for all students. Every student that took the opportunity to comment on the the budget spoke on behalf of free tickets for the student body.
Zak Taylor, a member of the baseball team, explained, “The Goss Stadium stands are always filled thanks to the athletics budget and free tickets.”
There was a common theme in all of the student athletes’ comments. One member of Beaver Dam, Justin Cooper, recommends the fee level because he believes athletics is a big part of OSU. It brings the school together and it’s a fair way to get the money they need to make that happen, Cooper said.
Michelle Sass, a player on the softball team, said, “Being a walk-on, the athletics budget has given me the opportunity to be able to afford being an athlete in college.”
In fact, more than one student mentioned how beneficial they believe free tickets are to low-income students specifically.
After debate, the second decision package was accepted, meaning that there will be a $41.00 fee per student per term.
By Donald Orr, News Contributor
Through the next hour, tension grew as the budget for ASOSU was discussed, with a main concern focused on the fate of the Oregon Student Association’s budget, with a proposed budget cut of $55,000. OSA is a student-led advocacy group with a focus on getting students registered to vote and engaging in lobbying.
SFC at-large member Andrew Damitio prefaced the conversation by proposing to not focus just on one line item of the budget, but the budget as a whole.
ASOSU President Justin Bennett provided context for the budget to the committee and the public.
“I think that the budget that we’ve created has been something that we’ve spent hours and hours talking about, and trying to figure out,” Bennett said. “We’ve been trying to be as transparent as we can.”
Bennett believes an expected 5.8 percent drop in enrollment, and the decisions made regarding budget cuts and its impact on students, were not taken lightly. Bennett stated that while OSA has been crucial to student civic engagement, ASOSU has been a leader on campus in regards to student advocacy as well.
“We have an organization that helps lift student voices at OSU, and that’s ASOSU,” Bennett said.
“I wish we could provide for all of the things we talked about tonight, but with the nature of budgets at a university—we have to make cuts. It’s something we have to move forward with, something we have to learn to adapt to. It’s our responsibility to make sure to keep fees as low as possible for students.”
The ASOSU travel budget was also decreased, as well as the Student Fee Committee salaries.
Before entering public comment, committee member Khawater Hussein thanked ASOSU for cutting its respective budget like the rest of the units—but acknowledged students’ concerns with the potential impact to the OSA.
“If we want to continue to support the students of Oregon and do our part, I believe it’s financially irresponsible for us to not be funding OSA,” Hussein said.
Damitio deflected the concerns for OSA toward other student powers.
“The ultimate decision is approved by the Congress of ASOSU—we’re just recommending the fee level. If you have issues with the OSA budget, testify in front of Congress. This isn’t the committee for it,” Damitio said.
As the floor opened for public comment, members of the OSU community such as Sienna Kaske, a second year student that’s a part of undocumented student advocacy group Here to Stay, vocalized her belief in the importance of OSA.
“It is extremely risky for ASOSU to assume that they can offer OSA only half of membership dues and still continue with their lobbying work,” Kaske said. “It is necessary that we have an organization advocating for students of color and LGBTQ+ folks, because we cannot always count on our upper administration to support our existence on this campus. It’s crucial that OSA maintains a full presence here.”
Advocates and student government officials from other universities such as Southern Oregon University, Western Oregon University and University of Oregon were present to vocalize their opposition to the proposed cuts for OSA.
By Noah Nelson, News Contributor
Members from the Associated Students of the University of Oregon and the Associated Students of Western Oregon claimed that decreasing funding to OSA will greatly decrease the amount of registered students on the OSU campus.
This concern was brought up again from multiple speakers from the crowd, some of which stated that, in their opinion, passing this budget proposal and potentially decreasing funding to OSA will directly affect marginalized students, specifically those within the Hispanic, Latinx and Caribbean communities, due to the fact that OSA campaigns to increase voter turnout, and directly targets these marginalized communities.
Among the opposition to the proposed funding cuts was Ivan Chen, the vice president and co-director of ASUO, who called in to comment on his belief in the importance of OSA.
“Without a doubt, without OSA supporting us, our voter registration rate would have been greatly lower,” Chen said.
This concern was noted by the committee with some members agreeing, while others voiced their disagreement. ASOSU’s relationship with OSA has previously been rocky.
Damitio claimed that despite the concerns people had about the budget, it was important to pass the bill and remain fiscally responsible. Not approving the budget cuts would possibly put the committee over budget, he said.
Hussein urged the rest of the committee to vote no on the proposed budget, citing that OSU should remain focused on supporting diversity by elevating marginalized student voices by funding OSA.
Damitio continued to try to get the vote underway, and compared this discussion to the discussion regarding the athletic department to point out that the talk had gone on long enough.
“We did not discuss the Athletics budget and discuss if they spent too much money on pom-poms,” Damitio said.
After about 50 minutes deliberating, the budget was eventually passed, announcing the recommended budget cuts. The agreed upon student fee recommendation for ASOSU per student is $23.14 for fall, winter and spring terms, and $9.28 for summer.
Following this decision, many members of the crowd displayed their displeasure by walking out of the meeting.
“We failed to do our job here today,” Millicent Taylor, SFC member, said.
Once the session was adjourned, a woman walked up to the committee and stated her belief that their decision to cut funding to OSA was a direct attack on marginalized communities, and made her feel less valued on this campus.
This article has been updated to include all 10 recommended fee levels.