USUAA president Hall walks out on coalition fee proposal

All University of Alaska students may see another fee next spring if the Board of Regents passes a Coalition of Student Leaders’ proposal to do so. Despite USUAA president Chris Hall’s opposition to the fee and his unofficial withdrawal from the coalition, campus representatives voted to collect $12 to $15 from each student every year. The resolution to collect the fee will now go to the Board of Regents for approval.

“They weren’t open to lowering it at all,” Hall said about the coalition’s reluctance to shrink the fee. “They just wanted to make this behemoth of an organization and take away the student voice.”

During the coalition’s meeting April 2 at UAA, USUAA Sen. Deadra Hall said UAA students would contribute the most money, but receive the least benefit. Hall said UAA is underrepresented on the coalition because the USUAA president’s vote, which represents 42 percent of all UA students statewide, carries the same influence as votes from campuses with only 1,000 students.

USUAA vice president Michael Blanton said a fee would make the coalition a permanent entity and so change its focus, definition, mission and direction.

Coalition speaker Thomas Walker said the coalition defined itself by its mission statement, not Webster’s dictionary.

USUAA Sen. Elizabeth Percak-Dennett reminded coalition members that USUAA already approved a $5,000 donation to the coalition, paid for by UAA students’ fees.

“It seems like we’re double-taxing them,” Percak-Dennett said.

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USUAA Sen. Kortney Hintsala brought attention to the proposal’s intention to pay coalition members for their service. The proposal would pay coalition members $9.50 per hour for 10 hours every week. This alone would cost $45,000 annually. The coalition later removed this intention from the final proposal.

“It is irresponsible and, I believe, unethical to pass this without letting students have a vote on this matter,” Blanton said. “The coalition is not a visible entity within the student population of the University of Alaska Anchorage.” He said the coalition is a representative body of the campuses, not students, and was designed to represent public Alaska campuses to the state Legislature and lobby for state funding on the university’s behalf.

USUAA Sen. Anthony Rivas asked the coalition if its performance would increase accordingly with the tenfold increase in its budget.

“It feels like the decision was made before you got here. I’d like you to guys to reconsider what you’re doing. Think about your constituents,” Rivas said.

President Hall made several motions to reduce the amount collected under the fee. After the meeting, Blanton said Hall might have been acting strategically, trying to run down the meeting’s time so the coalition could not vote on the fee before time expired at 9 p.m.

Walker asked coalition members whether to remove the meeting’s speaking time limits, because almost everyone in attendance had exhausted their speaking opportunities. Members supported the time limits, at which point Hall unplugged his laptop and packed up his things. He had no more opportunities to speak.

“USUAA is out of the coalition, because if you’re going to silence the largest voice at UA, then we’re out,” Hall said. Audience guests applauded Hall’s statement and followed him out of the room. The coalition then voted in favor of the fee proposal 6-1. Walker said Hall didn’t have the authority to remove USUAA from the coalition, so Hall’s vote was considered an abstention. UAS-Juneau president Toby Coate was the only dissenting vote.

“I think what we’ve done is wonderful,” Walker said.

He said Hall’s participation in the coalition is voluntary, and USUAA’s membership has not been officially withdrawn.

Blanton said USUAA is in a better political position now.

“I think this is the best move we could have done,” Blanton said.

A resolution to withdraw USUAA from the coalition will be sent to the Board of Regents and the coalition, and will give reasons for USUAA’s withdrawal.

Previous resolutions to collect money for the coalition from all UA students have been proposed, but all failed before getting to the Board of Regents.