The Student Government Gone Broke?
By Joseph Budka
Well, not really. But word has it that Student Government will be over their budget by about $3,700 this year. So where has the money gone?
Student Life, the office under which Student Government falls, has a yearly budget of about $44,000 to spend on student activities. The four officers who run the Student Government receive $1,700 each for their managing the government functions and day-to-day tasks. $12,000 is spent catering the two 'Pit' barbecues at the 280 S. Columbus Building held once a semester. $10,000 is set aside for student groups to apply for. The rest of the budget is allocated to setting up the Holiday and Spring Art Sales, and special events like panel discussions, the Halloween Ball, and Sex Fest.
In 2000-2001 student groups applied for hardly any of the $10,000 reserved for their use. At the first student government meeting this year, officers encouraged student groups to form and apply for this money. "Odds are, it will be approved," officers said. Well, that is exactly what the students did.
"I think Tayoon Choi, of the student group Jang Seung, put it best," said Ethan Roeder, one of the co-presidents of SG. "To raise one race horse you must raise two race horses. They will compete with each other and spur each other on.' That's just what happened this year with our student group funding. When we gave the Latino American Student Organization (LASO) $1,200, and Nine Spaces to a Crystal $1,600 in the fall, the flood gates opened to an ocean of [ideas from students]."
By fall 2001 that ocean of ideas had consumed over half of the budget with $6,800 going to student groups. Though the student groups have only actually spent about $3,800 of what they applied for, Student Government is worried they may be cutting it close this year.
So why not borrow some money from the special events budget to cover the extra money student groups have applied for? That well is just as dry.
What many students may not be aware of is that SAIC has been tightening its belt a bit lately. Because of difficulties with the newly purchased and problematic North American Building, and a poor financial investment by the Art Institute that resulted in a $20 million loss on a hedge fund, the school made a 3 percent budget cut to all departments.
Student Life was spared this cut, but the special events it puts on during the year are often co-funded by other departments (e.g., Health Services for Sex Fest.) Because of the cut, other departments have been unable to donate as much of their time and money to Student Life's events this year. Thus, Student Life has shouldered more of the cost. Also, there have been more events this year than in years past. The panel on Islam and panel on terrorism, both of which occurred last fall, and the panel on porn and art, which will be happening this spring, are all events that have drawn good responses from students, but have also cost a nice chunk of change.
"We are lucky to have escaped the recent budget cuts, but being active on campus isn't cheap," said Roeder. "We're paying a price for our aggressive involvement this year."
But by no means are the Student Government officers digging for loose change in the couch. The Holiday Art Sale kicked ass this year, with students selling about $70,000 in artwork. The Spring Art Sale is expected to do just as well. Student Life takes 10 percent to pay for organizing the sale. Because this year's sale was so successful they netted about $5,000 after expenses. This leftover money goes into a restricted budget, which is used for the "Peanut Butter Award" [student scholarships sponsored by Student Life], "Faculty of the Year Award," and to fund more special events.
As for proposals from student groups, Student Government wants everyone to keep applying for funds as vigorously as they have been.
"Although we don't have much money left in our operating budget, we are keeping our student group funding coffers open as wide as ever," Roeder insisted.
One anticipated difference is that applications for funds may be more highly scrutinized, especially those involving large monetary requests. Students can take heart though: if the proposal is realistic, chances are it will get a favorable nod.
This has been an unprecedented year for Student Government; never has there been more that students wanted to do, nor more that needs to be done. Despite budget woes Student Government seems committed to seeing good ideas come to fruition.
"There is a myriad of great ideas for projects that involve the SAIC community," said Roeder. "This year [Student Government is] out there and we're yelling at students to spend our money, which is silly because really it's their money - we're just the administrators of it."