Committee ties on fee approval

By Matt Michalek

Despite a lengthy debate, the President’s Fee Study Committee remained deadlocked on approving a fee increase for the athletic department.

The committee, meeting Thursday to try and hammer out next year’s fee structure, granted approval for hikes in the student activity fee and busing fee. However, the committee could not come to a decision on a fee increase for Huskie athletics.

The proposed athletics fee hike was set to cover a cost-of-living increase. The fee jump would be directly tied to cover increases in tuition, student fees and room and board.

The request was voted on, but resulted in a 4-4 tie with one abstention. The fee request and results will now be sent to NIU President John La Tourette for a final decision.

Student Association President Preston Came made a motion to pass the athletics fee without the requested cost-of-living increase.

Came said his motion was based on three points. He said the SA grant-in-aid scholarship, which goes to students with academic marks, does not need a cost of living increase. “So, why should the athletic grant-in-aid scholarship need one?” Came asked.

Second, with the athletic budget being cut next year, Came said the department does not need to give as many scholarships. Came’s third reason was La Tourette already had stated that no fees will increase to support athletics.

The athletic department already receives 5 percent of student tuition money and $4.2 million of student money overall.

Don Davidson, committee chairman, said the athletic department would have to cut scholarships if the fee increase wasn’t approved.

Davidson said the SA program does not need a cost-of-living increase because the SA program has a “considerable” carryover of funds each year compared to the athletics grant program.

The cost-of-living increase is a “safety net” for the athletics scholarship program which would be removed if the increase is not approved, Davidson said.

Anne Kaplan, executive assistant to the president, said the money going to the athletic scholarships should not be cut because it would reduce NCAA television income.

The NCAA divides television money between schools depending on the level of athletic support at each university, she said. The amount of athletic support is based on the number of athletic grant-in-aid scholarships and the number of sports supported at the university, she said.

“NIU ranks in the top 20 for athletic support and receives a lot of NCAA television money, even though NIU was only in one televised NCAA game,” she said.

The three student members of the committee, Came, SA Speaker Mike Starzec and SA Treasurer Joe Kolerich, joined with Accounting Professor John Engstrom to vote for Came’s resolution against any athletic fee increase.

Kaplan, Davidson, John Tuecke, associate vice president for computing systems and G. Robb Cooper, associate professor of leadership and education policy, all voted against Came’s resolution. Committee member Dave Ivers abstained.

The committee approved the student activity fee. Kolerich said the student activity fee increase would be used to support student organizations, to establish a full time technical manager position for CAB and to provide additional support to the student legal aid office, he said.

“This proposal is the bare minimum that we could come up with,” he said. “We have eliminated all the fat we could, and requested only what we absolutely need to accomplish our goals.”

After a lengthy discussion focusing on the legal assistance portion, the request was approved.

The final request to be voted on was the busing fee increase. “The consequences of not approving the request would be that services would be cut, and nobody wants that,” Davidson said.

“It is generally perceived that the Huskie Bus Line is a good service,” Kaplan said.

After La Tourette approves or rejects the fee increases, the Board of Regents will give the final decision at its April 16 meeting.