Regents delay acting on fee

By Jim Wozniak

SPRINGFIELD—Board of Regents action on a mandatory refundable $1 fee to support the Illinois Student Association will wait until the three student Regents can answer questions about the ISA’s organization and accountability and the university’s collection procedure.

The Regents voted 6 to 3 against a motion from Brian Hopkins, Sangamon State University student Regent, to include the $1 fee with the other fees under consideration. The fee would apply only to NIU students and would be paid in the fall. Hopkins said students voted for the fee in a referendum.

NIU Student Regent Nick Valadez said the Regents’ concerns will be addressed, and the fee could be brought to the Regents at their meeting next month.

“I was a bit surprised that the board was so concerned over a fee which has been approved by the student body, the student government and the administration,” Valadez said. “I wish they would apply such scrutiny to some other fees which are not refundable.

“However, we will spend the next month trying to answer the questions that the reluctant members of the board (have), and I’m confident that we’ll be able to adequately answer those questions to the board’s approval.”

The motion failed even though the Regents’ Facilities/Finance Committee voted in favor of the fee Wednesday.

“It’s very unusual for the (Regents) not to accept a recommendation from the committee,” Valadez said.

“I’m really not disappointed with the board because they want a little more information,” Hopkins said. “I’m sure it will pass at the next meeting. If the Regents can be assured that this is something the students want, then they’ll get it.”

Milton McClure, a Regent and committee chairman, said Thursday he would have trouble supporting the fee proposal until the ISA’s structure satisfies him, and the fee charge is equal among all state universities.

During Wednesday’s meeting, McClure also asked ISA President David Starrett about auditing the money. Starrett said the ISA is planning for an audit.

“We haven’t had significant expenditures yet to audit,” he said. “We are bound by the law like any organization. We have attorneys. We will have accountants. We have a board of directors. We follow the rules of a not-for-profit organization.”

Regents Chairman Carol Burns, who opposed the motion, also questioned how NIU would collect the money and later transfer the fee to the ISA.

James Harder, NIU vice president for business and operations, said he thinks the university would collect the fee and then would transfer it to the ISA, but he said he was not sure who would make the request.

Regent Clara Fitzpatrick said she voted against the motion because she thinks the fee should be voluntary instead of mandatory. She said she does not believe very many students would request a refund.

NIU President John LaTourette said Wednesday that returning the fee would not cause additional problems for the university.

“There are logistical problems with all kinds of fees, and they (Regents) don’t worry about it,” Valadez said.

“They cannot assume responsibility for these day-to-day fees,” Hopkins said. “In a sense, they’re insulated. The accountability lies with the people (in the ISA) who write the checks.”