The Student Services Finance Committee discussed budgets for RecWell and the Wisconsin Union Thursday night, prompting tense discussion on the ethics of raising segregated fees during a pandemic.
RecWell’s proposed 2022 budget included a request for an additional $1.20 in segregated student fees, citing a financially difficult year due to COVID-19. This would bring their projected 2022 segregated fee revenue to $5,315,000, up from 2021’s $4,761,100.
“I notice a 1% increase in segregated fees, and as small as that 1% may seem, the students that are affected most by this increase are those that are already the most vulnerable,” Grant Allocation Committee Chair Sam Jorudd said.
Jorudd also stated that it would be inappropriate for the university to expect to provide financial assistance to students while simultaneously asking them to pay more in segregated fees.
Rep. Logan Knochenmus argued that segregated fees have increased year by year, with students receiving little benefit in exchange for the expanded cost. “Money doesn’t just grow on trees,” he said. “But it should not be the students who have to keep getting shafted, paying more fees due to financial decisions made the university.”
When Rep. Roshan Verma asked what the $1.20 increase in student segregated fees would go
towards, RecWell Director Aaron Hobson answered that it would allow them to stay “budget neutral.” With the increased cost, students will not receive any additional services.
Hobson also held that RecWell would use a portion of the proposed increase — 40% — to fund student-worker salaries, increasing their minimum wage to $11 an hour.
“You realize, all of you student workers here, you’re going to be paying your own paycheck!” Rep. Jack Phillips. “You can increase wages without increasing seg fees. There is so much money, just sitting around, in this university, in the Wisconsin Foundation, in the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.”
Members of the student body in attendance noted that the meeting’ agenda was inaccessible to the public and that budget items were labeled in a misleading way. Chair Mitnick noted that required material for the meeting to take place may not have been public in a timely manner, making any vote that would take place illegitimate and in violation of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law.
The SSFC will hold a vote on the RecWell budget at their Monday, Feb. 22 meeting.
A vote on the Wisconsin Union budget, which was initially presented Monday night, passed 7-2-1.