Look out lawbreakers and recreation lovers. Starting in the fall of 2001, the University will be collecting higher fees for parking and recreation, and will introduce a new administrative fee for students who go through the Student Conduct Committee.
Judy Ryan, vice president of the Division of Student Development, presented the updated fees to the Student Senate Friday, although all but the recreation fee have already been approved by President Richard Pattenaude.
The Senate was given an opportunity to give feedback and voice concerns on behalf of the student body despite the fact that some of the items were no longer up for debate.
The first item up for discussion was an increase in parking fines from $10 to $25. According to a handout from Ryan, “It is expected that this change will increase the level of compliance and will also increase revenues to cover the cost of staffing and operating the parking operation.” The institution of a $25 fine is modeled after a similar increase at the University of Maine last year, which significantly reduced the number of parking violations on campus.
Resident Sen. Anthony Pergola, an avid opponent of the increase, was the first to voice concern.
“I can see $5, $10, but $15 in one year? I find it a little ridiculous,” said Pergola.
Pergola continued, citing situations in which he felt the parking situation sometimes forced students to collect violations. After a heated defense of his position in which he claimed that parking attendants were overly anxious to dole out tickets, Police Chief Lisa Beecher responded.
“In all due respect to you, it sounds to me like you have a lot of personal issues where you’d prefer to park illegally.”
“We’re doing our job,” she added.
Other senators were more supportive of the measure, emphasizing the possibility that the more restrictive fine might encourage students to obey parking rules and alleviate parking problems.
“It takes money to fix problems, and this is an opportunity to do that,” said Commuter Sen. Justin Laberge.
Ryan addressed concerns, but ultimately stood behind the increase. “We probably should have gone up gradually over the years, but again we want to drive up compliance.”
A $10 increase in the cost of parking decals to $35 was not heavily debated.
The second president-approved fee, a $25 administrative fee for students who go through the Student Conduct Committee was met with some resistance, however.
Ryan introduced the fee, which functions somewhat like a court fee in municipal court.
“We need to drive [repeat offense] numbers down and one way to do that is to hit someone in the pocketbook,” she said.
At-Large Sen. Michael Norton voiced concern that the fee was misguided. Because the fee would appear on a student’s bill, it might be paid by parents or financial aid instead of students themselves, undermining the intent of the fee. The sentiment was echoed by other senators.
Finally the discussion turned to a $1.50 per-credit-hour increase in the mandatory student recreation fee which funds maintenance of the Costello Sports Complex in Gorham and the Sullivan Gym in Portland. The seemingly small increase would mean students with 12 credits who currently pay $192 yearly would pay $228.
A number of senators were concerned that students were not getting full use out of these facilities and should not be expected to bear the cost of maintaining them. Ryan compared the issue to taxpayers whose money may support services which are only indirectly beneficial.
“I don’t have any children in the school, but I want to have a strong school system so that when I go to sell my house the value is high,” she said. She continued, saying that in order to maintain the value of a USM diploma, it is important to maintain facilities.
At-Large Sen. Tyler Stanley also questioned Ryan about raising fees on a relatively new complex such as the Costello Sports Complex and asked whether the increase was planned or if revenue had fallen short of expectations. Although Ryan responded saying that increased energy costs made it necessary to increase fees, an earlier report from the Division of Student Development showed that unexpectedly low revenue from the Ice Arena was a major factor in budget problems.
While the recreation fee was the only issue that had not been finalized with President Pattenaude, Senator Norton suggested that the Senate make a vote on each issue in order to put student opinion on the record. His motion was rescinded pending further discussion but a vote was held later in the meeting. The Senate passed the parking fee (15-0-3), the parking fine (11-6-1), and the Student Conduct administrative fee (14-4-0), but defeated the recreation fee (7-10-1). The votes were intended to officially register student response and will not directly impact the implementation of these fees.
General Manager Meghan Conley can be contacted at: [email protected]