Thursday, December 1, 2011

Increase in org requests results in budget cuts

Originally published in The Mac Weekly.

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Asian Pacific Awareness Month requested $5,200. Macalester Christian Fellowship wanted $1,411. Mac Global Health sought $7,310. They received $3,000, $736, and $265 in proposed spring semester budgets from Macalester College Student Government [MCSG].

Student orgs at Macalester are set to receive significantly less funding than requested as MCSG finalizes their budgets for the spring semester. The Financial Affairs Committee [FAC], which processes the budgets for student orgs each semester, received a total of $177,000 in funding requests for the coming semester. This figure stands in stark contrast with the total sum budgeted for all student organizations: $77,000, with $31,000 reserved for additional allocations.

The FAC budgeted $82,000 for student orgs last semester, with $20-22,000 left over for additional allocations.

“The main thing we look for is that thought’s been put into the event already and that there’s been price searching that has done that,” said Mac McCreary, the FAC Chairman. “We aren’t trying to be very paternalistic. We just want to see that it is thought out in advance.”

One target of the FAC was funding for food at events. $25,000 worth of food at meetings and events was cut from the requests, including end-of-semester dinners exclusive to org members. Only food judged ‘necessary to the event’ was retained, such as meals for Open Shabbat of the Macalester Jewish Organization.

Student organizations have had mixed reactions to the decision.

“I find it hard to believe that the FAC is able to look at an event where an org thinks food is necessary and decide that food is not essential to the event,” said Rebecca Boylan, an officer in Macalester Christian Fellowship. “[The FAC] does not have all the background information and knowledge gained in planning the event, most of which is very difficult to convey in the budget form.”

Cultural organizations are particularly concerned.

“Food for cultural orgs plays a really big part in our events,” said Erica Martinez ’12, an MCSG representative and member of Adelante, during the November 22nd MCSG legislative body meeting. “Fund a cultural org semester dinner [instead of] Quiz Bowl or MacDems because cultural orgs are celebrating culture and part of that is food.”

“Cultural orgs take up a huge chunk of the activity fee. We are talking about private dinners,” said Jesse Horwitz ’13, the Vice President of MCSG during the same meeting. “I’m not saying there’s no room for those orgs to do that, but it just is not a [student] activity.”

FAC ended up approving Adelante for $536 out of $1,185 requested. Afrika!, on the other hand, received a substantial $6,754 out of $9,492, including a $5,000 speaker.

“If they have to cut somewhere, I think I would prefer they cut on the food than on the guest speakers and the amazing events that we are planning to have,” noted Clementine Sanchez, an officer of Afrika!.

There is an understanding that many organizations are facing budget stresses.

“This is the money we share with so many other orgs, so it is important that each org gets a fair share of the big cake,” said Dieynab Diatta ’14, Co-Chair of Afrika!. “We do want to get what we budgeted for, but at the same time we share this, and if it is a general cut then that’s ok.”

However, the cuts in funding for food are not set in stone.

“Just because something wasn’t funded in the budget doesn’t mean it is completely eliminated,” McCreary said. “It means, right now it is not funded and we want to reassess it [through additional allocation] once we’ve had some of these conversations and have a better sense of what the student body thinks.”

To that end, student organizations are still free to apply for food for individual events and end-of-semester banquets.

“We definitely don’t want to make it seem we are taking end of year banquets from cultural orgs,” said Kathy Kim ’12, President of MCSG. “We want them to be part of the conversation. We have come to a consensus that this isn’t the type of thing student government should make a consensus on by themselves.”

The budget still faces pressure in the long-term as the number of student orgs increases each semester. MCSG members are split on the solution.

“Honestly, I think the student activity fee ought to be raised,” said Michael Costigan ’13, a member of MCSG since his first year at Mac. “Orgs do an incredible job of defining our experience at Macalester and they often help define our identities. Therefore, they should cost students a little more for students.”

The tentative budget will be released to the public within the next few days. MCSG will vote to approve the budget December 13th.

Full disclosure: The Mac Weekly was among the student orgs who received budget cuts in the preliminary budget. 

Correction printed 12/9/11: A direct quote by Erica Martinez ‘12 was given insufficient context in the “Increase in org requests results in budget cuts,” from the December 2nd issue. Martinez’s point was that food is more important for cultural org events compared to other types of orgs. However, because the brackets in the quote did not mention food, it appeared that she was implying that food for cultural orgs is more important than funding for other types of orgs. The Mac Weekly apologizes to Martinez and for any misunderstanding caused by giving the quote insufficient context. Below is how the quote should have run. “Food for cultural orgs plays a really big part in our events,” said Erica Martinez ‘12, an MCSG representative and member of Adelante, during the November 22nd MCSG legislative body meeting. “Fund a cultural org semester dinner [instead of food for] Quiz Bowl or MacDems because cultural orgs are celebrating culture and part of that is food.”

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