ASNMU to change source of funding

Cameron Witbeck

The Associated Students of NMU will submit a proposal this week to the Referendum Committee, which will seek to fund the organization completely from the Student Activity Fee.
ASNMU has historically been funded by a combination of scholarship money which comes directly from the university, and allocated funds from the Student Activity Fee. ASNMU’s referendum proposal gets rid of the $32,000 that the university provides annually. It asks for a total of $49,290 from the Student Activity Fee, instead of the $18,875 that they received from the fee this year.
“The only reason ASNMU is asking for money on referendum is to take ourselves off the university funding of student government,” said ASNMU President Jason Morgan.
According to the most recent draft of ASNMU’s referendum proposal, provided by the ASNMU treasurer, the organization’s total revenue for the 2010-2011 school year will be 3.1 percent less than the $50,875 they had this year.
If approved preliminarily by the Referendum Committee and then by a student body vote in April, this will translate into an increase of $1.98 per student per semester, which would increase ASNMU’s total allocations from the Student Activity Fee from $1.20 to $3.18 per student per semester.
Morgan said that there were several reasons why ASNMU is seeking a different source of funding, including that the organization will not be subject to university budget cuts and it will ensure a level of autonomy from university officials.
“I fear there could be a time down the road when ASNMU funding would be put in jeopardy if [or] when we question tuition increases.  I think it is critical that ASNMU have the autonomy to question our administration on behalf of students,” Morgan said.
With ASNMU’s recent changes to its bylaws, two new executive board positions, the Director of External Affairs and the Director of Public Relations, have been created. According to the referendum proposal there is $8,160 allocated for these paid positions for next year. Morgan said that the pay for these positions is possible because of reallocated funds from measures such as cutting the hours of ASNMU secretaries and lowering the pay of the president from $11.75 per hour to $10.
“Rather than just cutting those funds we are reallocating the funds that we currently have to make better use of them,” Morgan said.
ASNMU Treasurer Andrew Foster said that there is no causal relationship between the organization’s university scholarship not being renewed next year and tuition pricing.
“If the Student Activity Fee increases to pay for ASNMU that does not mean tuition will be decreased,” he said.
Foster, who as treasurer of ASNMU is required to sit on the Referendum Committee, said that the committee will ask pointed questions about the ASNMU proposal.
“The committee will want to know how the students of NMU will benefit from this fee increase. ASNMU will have to give clear and compelling answers.  I’m not confident this will happen,” Foster said.
ASNMU is expected to present its proposal to the Referendum Committee at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25. The committee does not financially support groups, but instead oversees the development of requests from organizations for changes in funding derived from the Student Activity Fee. NMU students are then able to vote to approve or deny those requests in the April 6-7 referendum.
Keith Voorheis, a senior political science and economics major and the chairperson of the Referendum Committee, said that the referendum process is designed to keep student interests in mind when considering proposals.
“The primary responsibility is to make sure that these groups are effectively spending their money that they already have, and just to be a watchdog for the students to ensure money is being spent effectively,” he said.
Voorheis said that even though he is a member of the Student Finance Committee, a standing committee of ASNMU, he will not see ASNMU’s proposal until they bring it before the Referendum Committee so that he can approach it objectively.
“I’ll go in with the same approach … to make sure that student money is being spent the way it is supposed to. It doesn’t matter who is presenting before the [Referendum Committee],” Voorheis said. “It’s our duty to make sure that Student Activity Fee money is being spent effectively.”
The meeting is open to the public and will take place in the ASNMU office in the University Center.