UVUSA Sends Back Message: “We Do Care”

Ordinarily I would not respond to an article where someone disagreed with a student government decision. However, David Newlin’s March 2 Guest Op-Editorial entitled “UVU sends message: ‘We don’t care'” has some inaccurate information and failed to examine the broader scope of the issue.

I am writing this so the UVU Review readership is fully informed on why student government has elected to not fund $40,000 for the Wee Care Center.

Before arbitrarily throwing out a lot of information to the reader, allow me to first explain how student fees work.

You are undoubtedly familiar with student fees as you currently pay $288 each semester. At one time or another you have probably asked, “Where does this money even go?” Every year a gamut of administrators, departments, and programs come before student government to state their case for funding.

Our University is extremely unique in that all student fee increase proposals must be approved by the student government before going to the Presidents Council, Board of Trustees, and the State Board of Regents for final approval. All 28 council members deliberate on what fee requests should be approved and denied followed by a vote according to parliamentary procedure. There has been an open invitation in student fee hearings to all students for 30 years.
It is rare that funding is requested for anything not used to finance a macro-student program. These fees specifically fund services such as computer labs, the student center, athletics, student activities, speakers, bond payments, and a range of other services that ALL students have access to.

Wee Care was one of these many departments that came to student government four weeks ago to ask for a one-dollar increase per student, per semester (two-dollar each year). Their request was in response to a pending cessation of a three-year government grant that would leave the center with a temporary $40,000 budget deficit prior to applying for a new grant. This budget deficit has been looming for a year and several pertinent steps were skipped before the students were asked to fund this shortfall. For example, Wee Care should first have requested support from the administration in the annual PBA budgeting process. Further, why was this funding request not taken to their direct supervisor Wayne Mangleson or Vice-President Cory Duckworth? Did Wee Care make any effort to raise this money through private donors? Again, the students were the first stop, and like all other requests we should have been dead last.

UVUSA President Joseph Watkins and Vice-President Trevor Tooke have stated several reasons for UVUSA’s decision not to fund Wee Care, including the fact that Wee Care does not benefit all students. The Wee Care center supports 216 families. We have over 27,000 students attending this institution. UVU has an enormous population of students without children. UVU also has a population of financially struggling parents who may not be “impoverished,” but struggle nonetheless, and are also unable to use the services because of the limited capacity of the center. Thus, those students without children, and those with children that could not “make the cut” are being asked to pay for the .008% of families that do.

This particular funding request stands in stark contrast to all other student fee programs that EVERY student has direct access to. For example, each student has access to the multiple computer labs throughout the school. Each can attend an athletic event, and if they opt not to, each student is still branded by their athletics program for the life of their degree. I’m sure every UVU alum that heard of Ryan Toolson’s unbelievable performance against Chicago State was proud of their alma mater. Dances, speakers, debates, and other events are open to every student. Also, no student is exempt from the benefits of our student center.

When it comes to paying for educational opportunities, the flip side of this concept can be further illustrated by examining the example of student tuition. Each student has the same exact access to the same classes. However, the students in the nursing, aviation, or dental hygiene programs pay much more for their education due to the cost of the equipment required. Should we raise the cost of tuition to support these students? Should everyone have to bear the cost burden for those who have chosen a separate path?

In explaining UVUSA’s decision, Took has also stated on record that it was unclear how exactly Wee Care would be spending funds potentially granted to them from student fees. When Wee Care came before student government several weeks ago they were repeatedly asked about their income and operating budgets. It took two presentations, several phone calls, and finally a visit from a director to demystify the Wee Care budget. Even after that was made clear it was obvious that Wee Care had not exhausted all options such as minimizing labor, mild rate increases, or a partnership with our education program to maximize volunteer hours. It is clear Wee Care has not conducted a cost analysis, worked to minimize their expenses, or reported their “program ending” budget deficit to their direct supervisor.

UVUSA’s denial of Wee Care’s funding request was also motivated by a desire to avoid setting a precedent. This is easy to understand when you have stewardship over funding for a specific purpose. Student fees are dedicated for macro-student programming across the country. No other college in the State of Utah asks their students to fund day care through student fees. By granting a one-dollar per semester increase we make a statement to all departments that student fee funds are interpretive in purpose, and would undoubtedly bring a slew of other worthy funding requests to the wrong place. In short, one-dollar may seem like a small number, until the precedent restructures the student fee methodology and students are paying $600 a semester for University programs designed for just a few.

Our $288 has grown yes, but grows slowly and only in accordance with the needs of the entire student body.

Every funding source at this University has its place. Lab fees pay for specialized labs and print credits. Tuition and state tax dollars fund classes. State appropriations are used for expansion. Private student money finances club dues. Student fees pay for anything that can be utilized by each and every student. I personally don’t have anything against the center. In fact, I am more than willing to part with my dollar. What I, and my peers are not ready to do is force an expenditure (and future expenditures) on students (who aren’t too far from impoverished themselves) for the sake of a few. Keep student fees where they belong, with all the students.

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