Based on projected enrollment, the Associated Students budget is expected to decrease 20% each year, for the next five years
The Associated Students Board finalized their proposed budget for the upcoming academic year, during the April 24 board meeting. The budget includes cutting the entire budgets of the Asian, Desi, Pacific Islander Center, the Eric Rofes Multicultural Queer Resource Center or ERC and the Women’s Resource Center, among other programs.
Jeremiah Finley was elected the incoming AS President for the 2020-21 academic year. He wants to assure students they won’t be losing their programs.
“The reality is that we want to support y’all so bad,” Finley said. “That we’re willing to go into our reserves almost $100,000 to be able to still support in some type of way.”
Budget Administrator of the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology Justin Hawkins was baffled by the budget decisions and spoke out during the meeting.
“It’s just tragic, honestly, to see these massive cuts to the ERC and the Women’s Resource Center,” Hawkins said. “I’m a male body person, I identify that way, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t empathize and really appreciate the services that are provided.”
Hawkins questioned the justification for the AS budget increase after having several thousand dollars of his own program cut.
“It’s really troubling what I see going on,” Hawkins said. “How does the budget increase $14,000 and it’s going directly to the AS government in-between these recommended budgets, and yet, all of us are getting cut.”
Despite losing one of their three staff positions, the AS general operations budget has increased over $15,000 for the upcoming academic-year. This comes as a result of general operations losing miscellaneous revenue, largely made up of compensation for the oversight of Instructionally Related Activities. Without the $35,000 miscellaneous revenue provided for the 2019-20 year, the general operations budget requires additional funds to function.
As a result of budget reductions, AS was forced to down-size their office administrator position. This sharp deadline made it impossible for AS to administer payroll for the upcoming year and as a result student-wages have been removed from AS and most of its funded-programs. Executive Director of AS, Jenessa Lund, said the current system isn’t working.
“Even with three employees,” Lund said. “When we have eight programs spread across campus, the oversight is impossible. It’s a huge liability!”
In order to compensate students for their time, AS has come up with several loopholes to get around the extra paperwork that comes with administering official wages. These include paid-internships and stipends for students, both of which have been allocated specific funds in the final budget.
These allocations include a $15,000 committee compensation package that increased the AS government budget. The package is specifically set aside for non-AS board members that are involved in AS committees.
“The optics on the final number of $111,000 looks bad,” Lund said. “But if you really look at what’s inside of it, it’s support to the students.”
The finalized proposal includes a significant increase to the clubs’ budget, with money that can be used for student-stipends and internships. Programs that didn’t receive any funding from AS have the option to transition their organization into a club and can apply for funding through AS and the clubs’ office. Programs that weren’t given a budget for the upcoming year have also been allocated specific funds.
Queer Coordinator for the MultiCultural Center, Alexia Siebuhr voiced her concerns about access to AS grants distributed through clubs, at a board meeting on May 8. Siebuhr pointed out a white supremacist club on campus, who promotes hateful behavior towards groups denied an AS budget, is competition for club funding.
“I don’t think that all of the clubs should have an equal opportunity for that funding,” Siebuhr said. “They have the equal opportunity to apply for those grants. That just rubs me a little bit the wrong way.”
President-Elect Finley addressed Siebuhr’s concerns, explaining the reasoning behind the allocation.
“Every fee-paying student has to be able to have access to these funds,” Finley said. “If we do not allow them to have access to these funds, then we are doing a dis-service to our students.”
Programs with a department and a state employee overseeing paperwork are the only ones able to maintain regular wages because their payroll doesn’t go through AS. For programs that didn’t receive a budget from AS, finding a department to adopt them and re-applying for funding is currently their only option.
AS is already in discussion with the Student Access Gallery, the Waste-Reduction and Resource Awareness Program, the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology and several departments about the possibility of adoption. Executive Director Lund believes this will be the most beneficial direction for the programs, moving into next year.
“We didn’t have enough time to do that for every program,” Lund said. “That would’ve been ideal.”
AS is prepared for the possibility of refunding fee-paying students for potentially cancelled events and other unspent student-fee funds. Ultimately, if they aren’t providing the services outlined by student-fees, they shouldn’t be charging them.