With a lack of administrative support, students accept voting in favor of library fee

While students understand that the library needs funding, some feel that administration has put the responsibility fully on them

In preparation for the quickly approaching vote on Nov. 10, a second forum discussing the potential $15 per credit hour library fee was held Oct. 27 in Ellis Auditorium.

This follow-up forum to the one held on Oct. 15 was much smaller than the first, with around 25-30 attendees. The goal of the forum was also different; Matt Gaunt, director of advancement for MU libraries, gave about 15 minutes of overview of the fee before moving to an open forum discussion.

The first forum started with the slogan “great universities have great libraries,” and focused on supporting the fee. Gaunt said that this second forum was not intended to convince students to vote for the fee, but it was a place to hear concerns.

“If you have a view that is on the other side, if you’re not ‘I’m in,’ you don’t have to ask a question,” Gaunt said to open the forum. “You can make a statement. This is a chance for us all to have a conversation.”

If passed, the fee would institute a $5 per credit hour charge to students starting in the summer of 2016. From there, it would raise $2 every year until reaching a maximum of $15 per credit hour in 2022. This fee would be supported entirely by the student body of MU, which became a major talking point of the forum.

A question raised by many students was why the responsibility of supporting the library fell on students as opposed to administrators.

“When (Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin) came into this position, he quickly learned that there were not revenues within the campus budget structure to take away from departments and give to the library,” Gaunt said in response. “So his response was ‘you have to get a fee,’ because he’s not seeing anywhere else for revenues to come from.”

Gaunt said that while student fees would be paying for a majority of renovations, administration would eventually move to do their part by finding funding for an off-site storage unit.

Gaunt addressed the fact that Loftin has not yet attended any forums for the fee.

“I think he feels like he’s a lighting rod for criticism and that he would do more harm than good,” Gaunt said. “So we’ve been encouraged to reach out to students, and if this fee doesn’t pass, we at least have that from the effort.”

There was also a general air of defeat from graduate students who made up the majority of attendees at the forum. Many expressed their dissatisfaction with the efforts made by administration at MU to find other forms of funding.

“I think for a lot of graduate students, a significant number of us are graduate student employees, and so we’re living on very, very small stipends,” said Alex Howe, graduate student and Graduate Professional Council treasurer. “Any change in cost of attendance for school is going to affect us a bit more significantly than the majority of undergrads. $40 a month just doesn’t exist in my budget.”

Another concern voiced by graduate students was the buildup of fees from different colleges within MU, as well as costs of attending. One fee which garnered a significant amount of attention was the supplemental fee for graduate students from the College of Engineering called the Engineering Excellence Fee, which is $31.50 per credit hour for residents and $73.50 for non-residents.

Gaunt and others in support of the library fee made it clear that the library fee is not in the same category as supplemental fees like the Engineering Excellence Fee. The library fee would technically be considered an activities fee.

“Graduate student employees in Arts and Sciences, for example, receive a waiver on the supplemental fee that is called the Arts and Sciences Course Fee,” Howe said. “By contrast, graduate student employees in engineering do not receive a waiver for the Engineering Excellence Fee.”

One question posed during the forum by Howe was where the line for student fees stops and how many services on campus would be supported by student fees. Howe claimed that one question Loftin asked of the Budget Allocation Advisory Council was what actions could be put to student fees.

Gaunt said the implementation of acts such as Senate Bill 389, which capped tuition rates at the Consumer Price Index, made many actions subject to funding by student fees.

“It really comes down to two things: state support of the university and then the state’s intrusion upon our ability to increase tuition,” Gaunt said. “There just aren’t revenue options for people who run the university. It almost doesn’t matter in some ways if it was tuition or fee, it just comes down to if the amount is reasonable.”

The last major concern expressed was whether or not there could be legislation passed to help the university receive the funding it needs to support the library.

“The library receives funding partially through the general operating budget,” said Rachel Bauer, vice president of the Graduate Professional Council. “That general operating budget does come from allocations from the state. So, as we’ve seen in the last couple of years, the state is cutting back on some of those allocations and so the budget at the university is getting smaller. When the budget is getting smaller, that’s going to affect every part of the institution and it’s hitting the library hard.”

Organizations that currently work on lobbying for legislation are the Associated Students of the University of Missouri and GPC.

As the forum drew to a close, there was a feeling of resignation surrounding the student attendees. With no administrative support for the library at the current moment, many students felt that it was clear they would have to support the library without assistance.

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