Admin launches budget, fee consultation

A different approach to budget development had members of the Mount Allison community discuss the technology, lab, and ensemble fees imposed on students in last year’s budget.

The Nov. 17 session stood in contrast to last year’s budgeting process, when the administration imposed a technology fee on students without consultation of the university community. The fee did not go into a section of the budget designated for technology purchase or maintenance, but instead went into the general revenue section.

Mt. A Dean of Science Jeff Ollerhead led the Monday night session, taking the attendees through the three tasks of the provost’s ad hoc advisory committee, which was created six weeks ago to manage the budget consultation process.

“I think because of what happened last spring, it made it difficult – if not impossible – to have the kind of consultation that we would have preferred before instituting the fees that were instituted last year,” Ollerhead said.

Ollerhead said that the difficulties resulting from the strike, including the shortened semester, resulted in a lack of consultation.

“There is not a question that it would have been nice to have had a public meeting like this last year, and had a discussion well in advance of deciding that we would have these fees.”

This topic prompted a discussion on the value associated with faculty attention, class size, and department equipment. Some faculty and administration members said the distinction was arbitrary, and that each student should pay the same fees to cover all expenses. Others argued

Members of faculty and administration discussed various problems regarding the fees and suggested alternative ways of applying them.

Half a dozen students attended the meeting. Dan Murphy, a MASU science senator, said he was skeptical of the reasons behind the imposition of fees.

“The problem is that we have a revenue shortfall for several reasons, and the university needs to make up the funds somewhere,” said Murphy. “I don’t think there is any other real reason, no matter what they try to tell us.”

Ollerhead divided the session into three parts, one for each task of the ad hoc committee. The committee’s first task is to “develop criteria to determine which courses and ensembles should be subject to fees charged in addition to tuition.”

This topic prompted a discussion on the value associated with faculty attention, class size, and department equipment. Some faculty and administration members said the distinction was arbitrary, and that each student should pay the same fees to cover all expenses. Others argued it was unfair to charge a student for services from which they will not benefit.

Its second task is to develop criteria, or “metrics,” to determine the magnitude of the fee to be charged for a given course or ensemble.

“The main concern is that we not be seen to be simply nickel and dime-ing students,” Ollerhead said. “But I think even more fundamental, we need to be able to demonstrate that the funds that we are collecting are in fact going to enhance or deliver those things for which we say.”

The committee’s third task is to review the technology fee instituted last year, and consider the merits of other fees that could apply to all courses.

Members of faculty and administration discussed various problems regarding the fees and suggested alternative ways of applying them.

“I think that students who come to Mount Allison should get roughly proportional share of the institutional investment, and I don’t think we do that right now,” said Doug Campbell, a biology professor.

Steven Black, an arts senator, echoed this concern.

“I don’t think that should be done just through one specific group of students,” Black said. “We are all here to get our education, and the fee that is imposed there should be one that is imposed on all students at a lesser amount.”

The budget development process will continue through December and January, giving faculty and students an avenue to voice their concerns.

“This is just one pillar of a series of consultations that should lead into the budget development process,” Ollerhead said. “I would strongly encourage people to continue to stay involved in the consultation.”

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