Thursday, January 05, 2006

My Budget Philosophy

Previous posts have indicated my displeasure surrounding SSFC and in general their lack of fiscal philosophy and consistency. I’ve dedicated a lot of time thinking about what exactly I stand for and what others seem to stand for on the committee. The way I view SEG fees and the way others view SEG fees collided on numerous occasions last fall. This trend of philosophical and political clash will probably continue. For both my sanity and others that are involved or have been involved in this controversial process, I need to lay out where I stand in terms what should most likely be funded and what most likely should not be funded.

1. Social Events should not be funded.

If you’re just a common joe on UW’s campus your social life consists probably of a couple things. One, going out on either Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night (or a combination of the prior nights) to a house party, frat party, or bar and allocating a number of your hard earned or parent earned dollars for both refreshments and cover charges. Second, you may go see a movie, concert or Badger sports game that also hits your wallet. Third, you may be part of a student organization and after the game or the meeting you guys get some food/drinks paid by either your yearly dues or your pocketbook.

Now get this, MCSC wants to throw a ball with food and dance paid for. Oh yeah, and also Campus Woman’s Center wants to throw a “Woman’s Concert” down outside the Union. What if you’d rather join another student organization such as the Real Estate Club and go to their due-paid socials or what if you’d rather go see a Phish concert instead of the “Woman’s Concert”. There are no educational components to these and other events that student organizations demand funding for. How about allowing students to choose what they do in their social time rather than having them inadvertently paying for special events? Allowing SEG fees to go to events of strictly a social nature is inexcusable and says a lot about what ASM’s and UW’s priorities are. But see how the SJ ruled on Monkeyhoes and that is the current state of the system.

2. No handout that is not primarily educational should be funded.

Non-educational Handouts are a much smaller expense than social events or salaries for most student organizations but they are all the more an unreasonable expense. Take condoms for example. A number of student organizations budget for this line item (LBGTCC, SOL, CWC) when there are clearly condoms available a block away at Walgreen’s. Another example of a noneducational handout are pens. Both ASM and CWC asked for these in order to advertise but what really do these do to advertise. Are people really going to be interested in your organization by seeing your name on pens? The main function of a pen is to write and clearly there are a number of stores selling pens on/near campus. If anybody really needs condoms or pens, they will go purchase them at a store. If SSFC members don’t feel like the market is adequate in terms of providing these items, they need to take an economics course, get their hands out of students’ pockets, and get a brain. Handouts that are educational should be deemed adequate because literature is often as effective as a program in presenting a message or information. No matter what the message is and whether religious or not, it deserves equality in funding.

3. Student salaries should be only for a selected few that go above a certain amount of hours (10-12 hours) of volunteering. This measure goes mainly for activist organizations.

I’ve talked about this subject with a number of other SSFC members and 4 of us do understand that activism work should be primarily of a volunteering nature. Whether you’re working at a church in children’s ministry, get petition signatures to save the rainforest in Brazil, running a meeting of a student organization, or putting on a program to support “your” cause, aren’t you doing more of an act of service rather than an act of compensation. Sure full-time church workers, environmental activists, and non-profit personnel do get paid (often much lower salaries than the private sector) but should students working 10-20 hours get paid for activism. Surely not. I can understand compensating a couple leaders who are supervising a large staff and have to put in extra hours. But again, we are talking about registered student organizations…. This year many people on the committee think it is fine to have large staffs for activist organizations (and I use activist in a neutral stance). There are many organizations and SSFC members who see paying student employees as vital to the programs of these organizations. But again if you do not have student volunteers putting on a specific program, should it really be put on at all. Because in reality, if students demand a educational or recreational service won’t the college or the private sector put it on? Again I’m not calling for the abolishment of student salaries or stipends as a whole but the labor budgets of many organizations are preposterous and unnecessary. If the organization is vital to the direct educational (GUTS) or transportation (SAFE) needs of the students, then it should be funded. Exempting a few organizations from harsh cuts, activist salary funding needs to be reformed dramatically.

4. No funding to programs or line items that do not fit the main mission of a particular group.

This was one of my main pet-peeves on the committee when SSFC failed to reject funding requests that did not fit the mission or main objective a group. MCSC is probably the biggest offender of any group. They asked to put on programs/trips that were strictly labor, tuition, and share-governance related and SSFC I believe did not vote to cut any of these programs. Therefore, a group that centers on diversity/multiculturalism is granted money to spend on items that aren’t central to what their group is about. So…essentially it doesn’t matter what type of group you are. You can put on a program about anything and get funding for it. I fought against funding these types of items all year. Sadly, few others really agreed or understood my rationalization.

5. Trying to limit Food/Drink to a bare minimum unless it is essential to the educational or cultural aspects of the event.

One area the committee was tough on all year was food/drink and I have to commend most of the moderates for signing on to these line item cuts. We still funded to food/drink to a small degree (especially if its part of the educational/cultural part of the program) which I guess philosophically I have a problem with. I do agree though with the statements Saar and Kiernoziak made about food and what its purpose really should be.

These are obviously starting points and there are obviously all sorts of different cuts that need to be made to different line items. I try to stick to these criteria but I am not ideological to the core on these rules. It will take a lot of convincing however for me to abandon these principles in any particular situation. Any other ASM or SSFC current or former member, please add other principles that should be added. Thanks.


  • I really don't see a need for student salaries or stipends.

    College students need experience. That is why I intern for free-to gain experience.

    By Blogger Jenna, at 9:24 PM  

  • So true... Here's are the main arguments the opposition puts up. First, the opposition see these organization leadership jobs as providing a service for campus and therefore they should get paid. Second, many people in ASM will say poor students may not be able to work/participate because they need a paying job. The first argument is complete bs. The second argument may have a little bit of merit but the fact is that they can have an outside job and volunteer with an organization.

    By Blogger Tim, at 11:23 AM  

  • Excellent distillation of the kind of fiscally responsible outlook needed on SSFC. Having been through hours upon hours of SSFC meetings where I wanted to scratch my own nails down a chalkboard out of frustration, I have to commend you - count me as one satisfied constituent.

    Ideally, I would prefer to see seg. fees eliminated. If SERVICES are necessary, then the administration will be forced to provide them. If other things currently funded by SSFC are not necessary, and therefore not funded by the university, there's no need for the organization to be on the seg. fee dole at all. We should not be subsidizing the marketplace of ideas, inherently undermining the entire notion of a marketplace.

    If the group's mission is really valuable in its members minds, they will fundraise on their own to make it possible.

    Again, superb job on crystallizing a useful and pragmatic rubric for future SSFC members who want to help their peers out by bringing a dose of fiscal restraint to the board.

    By Blogger Brad V, at 6:01 PM  

  • Brad-
    But the MCSC really gets to the heart of the issues I care about...they "work together to provide services and opportunities designed to enhance cross-cultural respect and understanding through building student coalitions." I bet you didn’t think about that!

    And, if there is anything that needs more attention, it is the racially motivated bigotry I see on campus EVERYDAY! White kids yelling at Asians yelling at Blacks yelling at Hispanics... when will it end? How did I ever end up in such a close-minded, unwelcoming city???

    And what about condoms? Am I supposed to FUND my OWN sexual activity? Tom-foolery!

    Seg. fees are the reason I get out of bed in the morning,

    By Blogger Mark Murphy, at 3:52 AM  

  • Seg. fees are the reason I get out of bed in the morning, too - it's just that when I roll out of the blankets and put my slippers on, I'm thinking exclusively of more ways to reduce and end them.

    By Blogger Brad V, at 9:34 AM  

  • Congrats on being validated by SJ on the SSFC case - I've gotta say I agree.

    By Blogger Steve S, at 6:31 PM  

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