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Meeting Minutes

January 25th, 2005

  • Location: Leighton 351
  • Time: 6:30 pm
  • Present: President Seth Cooper, Vice President Andy Evans, Treasurer Lilly Shields, Becca Stark, CJ Griffiths, Alejandro Mendoza, Andy Navratil, Kilang Yanger, Jim Watkins, David Wiczer, Jumal Lewis, Brandon Sun, Abhinab Basnyat, George Kachergis, Colin McLain, Dan Rubenstein, Jess Black, Tim Singer, Jesse Moreno, Cole Zimmerman, ** Appointee Tom Kiner **
  • Guests: MPIRG Student and State Representatives Many Concerned Students Robin Hart-Ruthenbeck
  • Secretary: Even Pay

President Cooper requested order and formally opened the meeting at 6:34 PM.

He briefly summarized the agenda on behalf of the large audience, noting that Budget Committee would be addressed first, and then the CRB Refusable Refundable fee items.

He noted that the confirmation of potential appointee Tom Kiner to Senate would wait until after CRB to avoid potential conflict of interest.

Budget Committee

Treasurer Shields reports on this week’s budget committee proceedings.

KRLX

Request of $500 for equipment repairs

$150 per part, 2 parts and shipping

The part allows people to call in and be broadcasted on air.

Shields clarifies that the current allocated repairs fund is insufficient to cover this big ticket item.

The bid is unanimously approved

Rugcutters

Request of $600 for Peter Strom, Lindy Hop instructor

He will conduct four 1-hr workshops, and has a minimum fee of $600

The bid is unanimously approved

Farm House, WOAH, GreenHouse, SOAP, and Folk Singers

Request of $2600 in honoraria for Libby Roderick

Speaker to host “Meet the Earth” sustainability education forum

This will be the key event of the term for all these organizations

The organizations have secured funding for her food and other costs from elsewhere

The bid is unanimously approved

Idealist Conference in Berkley

$900 to cover 7 students’ registration fees

The conference provides tutorials in volunteering, activism, etc

Shields mentions that the students have shown financial commitment by paying their own airfare, housing, food.

The bid is unanimously approved

Senior Math Comps Group

Request for attendance at National Math Conference of Undergraduate Women

Shields specifies that the group of 3 women are in the process of an expiramental math comps process involving group research and the conference will help them gain research ideas. Budget Committee urged them to seek alternate funding since most of the benefit goes to the Math department.

Budget Committee eventually passed a $90 bid, with the stipulation that they may return if Math refuses to support them.

Navratil moves to open discussion with wide support.

Navratil inquires whether there is a precedent for CSA funding for departmental comps projects. Shields recalls a project funded for over 2000 during Fall term.

Lewis inquires why Math wished CSA to help fund this. Shields hesitates to speculate.

Hart-Ruthenbeck notes that departmental budgets are often less flexible than Senate since the department would have had to plan and propose a budget last year at this time.

Lewis submits a motion to approve the bid.

The bid is approved by voice vote with one opposed.

Constitutional Review Board – Refusable Refundable Fee

Griffiths makes a presentation regarding the CRB and its findings.

He defines the role of the CRB to review the constitution and bylaws each year, presents definitions (“comprehensive fee statement” means the tuition bill, Refusable Refundable fee vs. positive check off system)

Griffiths presents the recommendation of the CRB

  • Amend bylaws to eliminate the possibility of a Refusable Refundable fee
  • Replaces the fee with a positive check off option
  • Mandates that a petition to have such a fee must be submitted each year (instead of only once as in current laws)
  • Organizations must be chartered if they have a fee
  • Bylaw change takes effect Fall 2005 – won’t change until 2006-7 school year
  • Senate will communicate change to trustees (for final approval)
  • Recommendation passed unanimously by CRB (8 members)

For specific line by line changes please see CSA web page: http://webapps.acs.carleton.edu/orgs/csa/

In closing, Griffiths emphasizes that the issue should not be a debate on the value of MPIRG, but instead should focus on the mechanics of the Refusable Refundable fee option.

Discussion of recommendation

Cooper outlines the format of discussions – alternating supporting and opposing speakers, followed by 10 minutes of Senate-only clarification, followed by an extended discussion that would include Senate and audience.

Rivka Burnstein-Stern presents her argument opposing the bylaw changes as a set of responses to common criticisms of the refusable refundable fee:

1) In response to the argument that the current system is exclusive, she notes that

  • The new system would remain exclusive
  • MPIRG is a special case organization, if another such organization existed, it too should be able to access the fee.
  • Empirically, the donation system is the only effective funding mechanism
  • The “normal” CSA funding mechanism would not be adequate for funding MPIRG, and would trade off with funds allocated to other student organizations.

2) In response to alleged objections from the Business Office she notes that

  • A donation system would be more difficult for them to manage
  • The business office has successfully administered the fee for the last 34 years. It is likely that changes would be more of a hassle for them.

3) In response to lack of accountability in the current system, she notes that

  • Some lapse in accountability has occurred, but MPIRG would gladly provide budgets and details to any interested parties on a regular basis. She passes out copies of the current budget at the request of a number of senators.
  • “Lack of accountability” argument assumes students are stupid. They receive information about this every year on their tuition statement and in their mailbox.
  • MPIRG is directly accountable – to students. 73% of students voted to support the fee last year.

Senator Jess Black presents her arguments for supporting the removal of a Refusable-Refundable fee. She notes that the current funding structure is unfair, lacks accountability, and is exclusive. The power lies with senate to correct these problems.

1) The fee is unfair to students

  • Based upon the assumption that all students want to pay the fee
  • Seeking a refund places burden on students to reclaim their own money
  • Doesn’t present a real choice for students, since many don’t even notice the forms in their mailbox
  • Is not a real-world funding policy
  • Only works for the organization
  • Black notes in closing that the continuing existence of this fee is not the fault of any organization, it is the fault of Senate for not removing it.

2) The fee lacks effective accountability

  • Organizations receiving funding in this way are not subject to the guidelines and restrictions that affect all other student organizations
  • There is no financial oversight from CSA or any other office on campus
  • MPIRG does not have to compete for funds as all other student organizations do
  • MPIRG is not even chartered as a student organization
  • The only accountability is whether students approve in the annual referendum

3) The fee is the exclusive right of one organization

  • While technically any organization with student approval could access the fee, the Trustees have made it clear that they will not allow any other organization to have a refusable refundable fee.
  • This represents a double standard in the CSA bylaws on behalf of only one organization.
  • CSA seeks only to correct this double standard by removing a fee option unavailable to any other organization.

Greg Haman presents his arguments in support of the fee:

1) MPIRG is a special organization in scope and membership. With other college students at a statewide level, this gives students a voice in their governance. Involved in enacting environmental legislation. Without fee, no way of supporting this kind of access.

2) Any decision, whether directed at MPIRG or not, should go through entire student body, since they vote on it every year, and for last 34 years, the fee has been supported by a majority of students – the same students who elected the CSA. Regardless of technicalities of the fee structure, the students support leaving it in place. The only fair way to remove the fee is through the student body… so tell them the concerns about accountability and exclusivity and win their support in the referendum.

3) MPIRG is not responsible for the fact that other organizations can no longer access the fee. Regardless of the fairness of this issue, voting the fee down based on “fairness” immediately impacts MPIRG. MPIRG should not be held responsible for the Trustees’ unfairness.

Senator Jim Watkins presents his arguments in opposition to the fee.

He begins by responding to concerns of some of the previous speakers. First, he clarifies that Senate would be capable of fully funding the group if the fee was removed. MPIRG’s budget represents 2.5% of the funding that Senate can access.

He reminds the body once again that the issue is not the merits of MPIRG, but instead finding a fair and equitable funding structure.

1) In response to the argument that MPIRG cannot survive without the fee

  • Other groups survive using “normal” CSA funding. The decision is not about ending MPIRG, just changing where their funding comes from.
  • Since 73% of the voting student body supports MPIRG, they will easily win a positive check-off option and CSA can make up some of the difference in funding if it exists.

2) In response to the argument that MPIRG enjoys wide student support

  • This issue is not about MPIRG, it is about the fee
  • Students widely do NOT support the fee, but just don’t understand the specifics of the referendum issue
  • MPIRG campaigns among students to vote “for MPIRG” not “for the fee”

3) In response to the argument that MPIRG is a unique organization

  • Many Carleton student organizations work for the greater common good, and are able to fulfill their mission within the normal funding structure.

This brings the formal presentation period to a close. Cooper reminds the body that there will be no formal vote to remove the fee tonight. The Senate must first vote to post recommended changes for a week, and will make the final vote the following week.

A female audience member requests clarification on whether the student body will ever get to vote on this through referendum. Cooper clarifies that since it is a change to the bylaws, not the constitution, Senate will make the final decision.

Cooper leads the body in opening a 10-minute question and answer period open only to Senators for the purpose of non-substantive clarification.

Lewis directs a question towards the MPIRG representatives regarding what makes MPIRG uniquely deserve this funding structure.

MPIRG Reps clarify that the organization provides paid trained representatives to work with students, but that the organization is only funded at the state level primarily by colleges, while Amnesty International, for example, has access to national and international funding sources.

Wiczer notes that MPIRG is a long-term large scope organization and asks the MPIRG reps if the funding status quo changes, how that would affect MPIRG?

MPIRG reps note that MPIRG would no longer be able to exist at Carleton due to their own internal regulations that require a guaranteed funding source.

Mendoza inquires whether the intent of CRB is to prevent MPIRG from being funded

Watkins clarifies that CSA would still be able to fund MPIRG, but only through an equitable funding structure.

Navratil inquires into voter turnout in last year’s election when 73% of students supported MPIRG.

Cooper provides that there were about 800 students that voted, near 50% of the student body.

McLain asks why we discuss the issue every year. Evans notes that CRB must re-evaluate the by laws each year and Cooper observes that the fee is subject to a referendum every year, so the issue is addressed repeatedly.

Lewis asks for clarification of the MPIRG bylaws: if the school removes the fee, MPIRG will no longer exist here?

MPIRG Rep responds that if a school chooses to have donation only system, MPIRG can no longer support a campus chapter due to the need to hire designated staff.

Yanger asks which 9 Minnesota colleges are part of MPIRG? A quick list is developed, including Augsburg, Carleton, Hamline, Macalister, St. Kate’s, and the Duluth, Morris, and Twin Cities campuses of U of M. William Mitchell Law School may also have an inactive chapter.

Watkins inquires once again whether MPIRG will leave if there is no fee.

MPIRG Reps note that they need guaranteed funding to stay at Carleton.

Cooper leads the body in opening a general discussion for substantive debate, which is open both to senators and audience members.

David Holman rhetorically inquires whether CSA should act “in the best interest of students” or actually represent the student population? If 73% vote to keep this, then students support it. Maybe the fee is biased, but support the will of students.

Female student audience member: Notes that if the CSA votes to approve the changes, they prevent the students from every considering the issue. The argument that “students don’t understand what they’re voting for” is ridiculous, since it is never considered in any other context, like senate votes

Evans recalls that the issue comes up every year and MPIRG wins. If senate votes to remove the fee, it will just be reversed in referendum.

- He asks MPIRG to come to him if they need help in starting the referendum process.

- He further notes that students never discuss this issue; only Senate cares enough to debate it.

- Finally, he observes that it is ridiculous not to discuss the merits of MPIRG since any change in this bylaw could eliminate their organization.

Mendoza argues that Senate has a duty to protect student interests, not just of those who voted but also those who disagree with the fee. He observes that the current system forces students to fight to get their money back. He had never heard of this system until two weeks ago at which point it was too late to get back his funds from the last few years. Economically, it is more efficient to make sure everyone is aware of their choice to donate or not.

Singer notes that MPIRG has clearly spent many hours preparing to defend themselves in the debate. Instead, they could just fundraise. He notes that this would allow them to make up the difference between a positive check off fee and the refusable refundable fee. He supports the notion of increasing accountability by asking MPIRG to petition for a positive check off each year.

Watkins recalls that Evans said the issue is revisited every year. Why? Because it is a funding anomaly. He believes 73% of the voting population is not necessarily representative of the entire student body. He believes the changes will make MPIRG accountable to the entire student body.

Paul Caine identifies himself as a student at large on the CRB. He notes that just because the student body supports something doesn’t mean that it is a fair policy. No other organization can access this funding.

Matt Ruen observes that in this case the end of keeping MPIRG on campus justifies the means of a possibly unfair mechanism. The decision has to be based on an evaluation of MPIRG since ending the funding could put them out of existence.

Bernstein-Stern concurs that the debate has to be about the merits of MPIRG, since without the fee, MPIRG will disappear. She further states that MPIRG lobbies on behalf of those students who choose not to pay the fee, and benefits everyone.

Wiczer argues that the senate is conflating “fair” and “equal”. Although MPIRG has unique funding, that doesn’t necessarily make it unfair. Students enjoy significant network benefits from MPIRG. He notes that systematically undermining MPIRG without having a student referendum is much more unfair (although funding might technically be more “equal”).

Rubenstein concurs with Haman that the Senate’s decision should be based on representing the student body, however, doesn’t feel that we have an accurate indicator of students’ feelings about the fee. He notes that specialized groups like the CRB have a deeper understanding of senate bylaws. He welcomes any suggestions about how to equitably bring a specific bylaw issue to the student body.

Adam Smith notes that MPIRG is the only student group that is actually accountable. We can’t choose what organizations to fund through the activity fee. While it is a hassle to fill out the form, you can actually choose whether or not to fund the organization, unlike, for example, the CCU.

Mendoza notes that 73% of about 800 voters is less than 50% of the student population. He wants to protect all student interests, not just those who voted… but that doesn’t mean he wants to remove MPIRG from campus..

Lewis believes his decision will be based on fairness. He has never received a card to get the refund. He requests that MPIRG re-evaluate their system and find a way to stay on campus, but notes that most students don’t know what the organization does and don’t know how to get their money back.

Male Freshman Audience Member: notes that as an incoming freshman, he looked over the tuition bill repeatedly and it took him a few times before he even noticed the MPIRG funding item, but still had no idea what it was. He believes students should be given information with their tuition bill that explains what MPIRG does

Harrison Greene describes himself as a typical apathetic Carleton student who showed up because he thought the fee was unfair. The more he learns, the more ridiculous he believes this organization is. They are un-chartered, receive funding without student consent, don’t document where their budget is going to CSA and so on. It is hard to discuss the issue without judging MPIRG’s bad practices.

Moreno believes the decision must be made based on the fee, not MPIRG’s policy. If MPIRG decides to leave campus based on non-guaranteed funding, that choice is not our problem. He views the fee as a huge subsidy for an organization with only 20 active members.

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Singer asks Bernstein-Stern a question regarding whether she feels that MPIRG would benefit if students donated more willingly. He argues that if MPIRG had to come before CSA and get approval, they could get the same amount of money but have more active student information and participation.

Navratil reminds the body to focus on the issue of whether or not the fee is fair. Since students are assumed to want to pay the fee, he views the system is unfair. No matter what MPIRG’s state organization will do, CSA cannot look to the bylaws of an outside organization to determine its policy.

David Holman concedes that the current system is unfair, but reminds senate that it is widely supported by students. Until student opinion changes, we are all wasting our time here.

Aaron Ban revisits the issue of accountability. He asks what could be more fair that allowing students to protest an organization by refusing to pay for it. There are lots of organizations that he wishes he could not pay for. If students really oppose this, they should stop being lazy. He checks his mailbox and votes in CSA elections.

Female Audience Member thanks CSA for trying to save us all, but she voted in favor of the fee and MPIRG, as well as voting for the current senators.

Female Audience Member believes MPIRG should be doing a better job of getting the word out on campus and publicizing their group.

Evans notes that the reason MPIRG isn’t chartered is that they don’t get CSA money. Many organizations are similar, like the Knights, who can’t get funding because they are an all-male group. He states that MPIRG is going to win, either now, next week, or in a student referendum. By voting against this you vote against 34 years of student body support, as well as the support of the trustees. Continued debate is just silly.

McLain agrees with Greene, further noting that the money goes to an off-campus organization and that it only benefits 20 members. However, he wants to be sure that students get to vote on the issue

Bernstein-Stern notes that CSA was elected by student voters. Further notes that Carleton produces about $12 thousand but receives $15 thousand from the state organization, so overall, it is a benefit to the school. She further notes that the mailing list has 200 or more people.

Basnyat yields time to Bernstein-Stern. She further notes that this system has allowed MPIRG to operate for 34 years, and everyone is reaping the benefits.

Watkins notes that 30 years of support doesn’t make it fair or equitable. The system relies on student apathy. If MPIRG is threatened by a positive check off system, they must be insecure about their student support.

Singer asks about what Carleton’s MPIRG chapter does. Bernstein-Stern reports that they work towards fair trade and free and fair elections, participate in training on lobbying, and weekend events on lobbying training. They have also brought fair-trade businesses to Carleton.

Female Audience Member Notes that no one says they feel their senate seat is invalid because of low voter turnout. A vote against the fee in Senate takes away student ability to vote on this issue.

Male Audience Member observed that student opinion seems clear, and the voter turnout issue is ridiculous.

Senior Female Audience Member identifies herself as a free-rider. She has inactively supported MPIRG by not requesting a refund for the last 4 years. She is glad that Carleton made it easy for her to donate. A check off system would make it harder to donate, and wouldn’t accurately reflect student support.

Female Audience Member notes that if there is a positive check off system, CSA will have to supplement MPIRG funding. The current system gives students the choice, afterwards, students would have no choice, and only CSA would get to choose. Plus, there would be less money for everyone!

Wiczer sees that the decision will either result in a continuation of the fee or Senate being forced to undertake funding of MPIRG. As a senator, he sees it as ego-driven to say that we are better qualified to decide funding than students. He doesn’t feel more qualified than the student body to decide whether MPIRG should be funded.

Greg Fan believes CSA is not the proper forum to debate MPIRG, and that Senate should wait for the referendum. Other organizations responsibility to CSA is a financial one. MPIRG doesn’t need to be financially responsible. MPIRG is responsible by action, since students will vote it down if MPIRG neglects their responsibility.

Navratil views the issue as a debate on the role of student government. He views that Senate should represent students, but should also exercise good judgment and establish fair guidelines.

Black feels that Senate is obligated to act in students’ best interest, and that consistent funding policies are the best for all students and organizations. Furthermore, senate is not obligated to uphold inequitable traditions.

Cooper notes that the speakers’ list has come to an end, and the senate will automatically move into voting procedure. The changes will be voted on in two segments: first, the changes striking a refusable refundable fee, and second, the changes requiring groups who want to have a fee on the tuition statement to petition each year.

Posting changes to the refusable refundable fee is supported 14-5

Posting changes requiring yearly petition is supported 14-5

Ad Hoc Committee on Appointments

Stark recommends Kiner for appointment to the open senate seat

Motion to approve is unanimously supported.

CSL

Basnyat reports that the committee discussed disbanding WOAH house and some related issues. Watkins met with Dean Ciner regarding changes to the freshman advising system. Basnyat noted that a survey regarding transportation will be administered soon.

Elections

Cooper reports that applications will be due in 2 weeks. Make people apply.

Chartering

Has breaking news, but will postpone until the following week in light of the long meeting time.

ECC

It is reported that there has been no oversight of graduation requirements for 40 years. Dean Boardman is calling for a review. What kind of classes, distribution requirements, etc should be necessary? How should CSA be involved?

Governance

Navratil reports on issue allowing sophomores to run for president. He notes that Senate’s original intent was to prevent Sophomores from being elected this Winter. In order to protect that intent, governance recommends reconsidering the original motion and instead adding a motion that specifies that the changes would go into effect in Fall, 2005.

A motion to reconsider is supported 11-4

A motion to place change on winter ballot with specification that it would be implemented Fall term 2005 is made and seconded.

A lengthy clarification ensues; mainly re-hashing that there is nothing in the constitution prohibiting anyone (Freshman, Sophomores, Seniors…) from running in an election. They are only prohibited from taking office.

The previous motion is supported 12-3

Announcements

A question is raised regarding when it will be possible to vote on the posted changes to the bylaws. It is concluded that a full calendar week must pass.

A motion is made to move the meeting until Tuesday to allow for a week of posting.

The motion passes by voice vote with near unanimous support.

A motion to adjourn is made and seconded, and receives unanimous support.