Bernstine sends student fee budget back

President Daniel Bernstine returned the student fee budget to the Student Fee Committee late Wednesday, requesting that the SFC re-examine budgets that were raised or lowered by more than 25 percent, claiming the committee did not follow its own guidelines.

The Student Fee Committee is charged with allocating over $8.1 million in student fees to Portland State’s nearly 100 student groups, including athletics and the Vanguard,

Bernstine said the budget is still under consideration, but he returned it because he had questions about SFC procedural issues. He said the SFC will have to address the questions and return the budget to him for a second evaluation.

Last year the SFC amended their guidelines to require a two-thirds majority vote on any budget altered by 25 percent or more, but in November the Judicial Board ruled that change unconstitutional because it would prevent the committee from acting in a “viewpoint-neutral manner” in accordance with the Supreme Court case, Southworth v. Board of Regents.

“The question is of whether the SFC followed their own procedures,” Bernstine said. “It’s up to them to make the budget.”

This year’s SFC voted unanimously to adopt the Judicial Board’s ruling and strike the 25 percent rule from its guidelines.

Many student leaders said they are concerned that the administration is disregarding decisions students made without providing a clear reason and are confused about what to do differently. “To me it seems like they’re ignoring what the students decided for their own agenda,” said former Judicial Board member Aaron Alfsen.

Katie Wylie, Student Fee Committee chair, said that if Bernstine had vetoed the budget outright, instead of returning it for review, the SFC would have a clear direction.

“There is a process that exists when there is a conflict with the budget and Bernstine doesn’t seem to be honoring that,” she said. “It is very unclear what the next step will be.”

Wylie said that at the end of this year’s budgeting process Endress told the committee it had acted in accordance with its own guidelines, but raised concern over the previous Judicial Board ruling. Endress submitted the Judicial Board ruling to the Department of Justice because of concerns that it left the university open to litigation, according to Wylie.

“If they didn’t like the J-board ruling, why aren’t they pressuring the J-board instead of us?” Wylie said. “Wendy never challenged the SFC process, just the J-board ruling.”

Student body President-elect Cortney Morse also said that she was upset about Bernstine’s decision. “This is the administration trying to control student processes again and not being clear about any recommendation,” she said. “This decision affects many student groups negatively as well as the whole university because it takes away our student process.”

Wylie echoed Morse’s complaint. “The rhetoric is oriented toward respecting students’ voices, but that’s not the reality,” she said.