Students to be seen, not heard at fee meeting
Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 17:01
Students will be allowed to voice their concerns at the Student Fee Advisory Committee meetings on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20, but they will have to do so in the form of written statements at the conclusion of the meetings, and via online forms as opposed to expressing their concerns during the meeting itself, according to Eddie Daniels, director of campus activities.
Sam Miller, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, said a Web site will be available for students to access the form and an e-mail address where they can send their concerns.
Vicky Triponey, vice chancellor for student affairs, said students can discuss specific ideas with the appropriate student organization committee members.
"All of the committee members are expected to represent specific constituencies," Triponey said. "[Students] are welcome to go to any committee member and address their concerns about specific fees. The student representatives' duty is to represent the student voice."
The meetings have been advertised as public hearings, but students cannot make their opinions known until after the meeting is over, according to Triponey. Connecticut freedom of information by-laws define public meetings as any hearing of a public agency, gathering of or communication by that agency to a quorum of a multi-member agency to discuss or act on matters that the agency has authority in. Triponey said she believes that the meetings meet these standards, and compared them to Board of Trustees meetings where the public is allowed to observe, but not make comments during the meeting.
"These are really public hearings," Triponey said. "It used to be that these decisions were made behind closed doors. That doesn't mean it is an open process where anyone can ask anything at any time."
Triponey also said there is a need for structure in the committee.
"There has to be a structure so that the committee can manage and do their work," Triponey said.
Those involved with the meetings think the idea of having students submit forms works just as well.
"I think through the response sheets, the Student Fee Advisory Committee will be able to hear feedback from students," Daniels said.
Undergraduate Student Government comptroller John Ireland said he agrees with the system and said the forms will be utilized when the committee makes decisions.
"We are allowing the public to come down and hear the committee's responses," Ireland said. "The forms will be used later on and it is the only logical thing to do because there are so many groups we have to get to."
Daniels said he thinks there are many benefits for students who would like to attend the meetings.
"I think the main benefit is to allow students to gain more information about how their fees are used," Daniels said.
According to Triponey, the other benefits students derive are a greater knowledge of how their funds are used, as well as the opportunity to offer suggestions.
"I think the greatest benefit for students is to come and learn how their money is being spent," Triponey said. "The second advantage is that students are given the opportunity to offer their input, concerns and feedback to the committee before [the committee] makes recommendations and decisions."
The implementation of response sheets, as opposed to an open forum, is more of an issue of logistics, according to Daniels.
"I think it is certainly, in part, a time issue," Daniels said. "This is a budget meeting, not really a forum. If students want to express dissatisfaction we need to create a different forum than the budget hearing for that to take place."
Triponey said that it is unlikely the committee will get all the required work completed if they stopped for questions.
"If somebody took up the whole half hour, we would not be able to address everybody's concerns," Triponey said. "We thought this was the fairest way to ensure that a diversity of voices are being heard and considered."
Triponey said she hopes students go to the meeting because of the impact the fees have on a student's experience at UConn.
"Last year we didn't have a lot of people show up, even though it was clearly advertised as a public hearing," Triponey said. "These fees are very important to our students because they are what can make the difference in the quality of their experience at UConn."
This will also be the first year that regional fees will be discussed. Ireland said he believes the meetings are more structured, which will benefit the students in the long run.
"Last year was the first year, so it was not as structured as it is this year," Ireland said. "I think we have made students more aware of their fees and how they are being used."
The meetings will take place on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 in room 146 of the Bishop Center. Both meetings will go from 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The majority of student activities are scheduled to be evaluated on Feb. 20, with General University Fees to be evaluated on Feb. 19.