College Student Association sues Minnesota State Board for refusing fee increase – Twin Cities

The Minnesota State Board of Trustees has filed a lawsuit against the state’s two-year college student body for refusing to approve a student fee increase last year.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, LeadMN alleges that the trustees rejected the fee increase in retaliation for criticism of the board and system administrators by the student association.

Students are asked to declare a judge that the board has violated their First Amendment rights and to ask the board to approve the increased fees.

“The First Amendment protects students and student associations from censorship by college administrators,” Lead MN Executive Director Mike Dean said in a news release. “This case is needed to protect students’ right to speak and to hold leaders accountable for their illegal attempts to silence dissent.”

Lead MN last year sought to increase the fee credit for two-year college students from 35 cents to 61 cents, which is in line with the fees paid by State University students to Students’ United.

By law, both student associations must submit any fee increase to the Board of Trustees for review, and “the board may revise or reject the fee change.”

Lead MN said in a presentation to the board that the extra income would be used to double their staff. They will hire a fundraiser and organizers to replace student senates on selected campuses, and they will enhance services for students, from career planning to benefits navigators to help address basic needs.

“Students said they wanted more services,” Lead MN president Priscilla Mayova told the board, adding that 68 percent of campus representatives in their general assembly supported the project.

But in June, the board’s finance committee rejected the fee increase by 5-2 votes.

“I appreciate what you are trying to do, but it’s not the right way,” Trustee Cheryl Tefer told the meeting.

College presidents and the Union of Non-Faculty Professional Employees in Colleges criticized LeadMN’s proposal as a duplication of the services they already provide.

LeadMN claims in its lawsuit that the board’s disapproval was prompted by years of conflict between the Students’ Association and the Minnesota State System Office over tuition freezing, credit transfers, and assistance for underprivileged students.

A Minnesota State spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

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