“…services and activities fees are paid by students for the express purpose of funding student services and programs. It is the intent of the legislature that governing boards ensure that students have a strong voice in recommending budgets for services and activities fees.”
The SPSCC Services and Activities (S&A) Fee Committee has proposed a budget for the 2015-16 school-year which dramatically and disproportionately cuts the allocation of funds to student clubs. These cuts have created an appearance of inequity and frustrated many students on campus. The Board of Trustees should reject this proposed budget.
In addition to their regular tuition, students pay activity fees while attending school. At SPSCC, these funds are used to operate and maintain the student union, fund campus athletic programs, provide resources for student governance, publish The Sounds and The Percival Review, and fund student clubs and organizations. Because enrollments declined slightly this year, annual funding is down from $1.1 million to $970,000, a drop of 11.8%.
Rather than spread the costs of these cuts proportionately, virtually the entire reduction was directed at student clubs, lowering their collective funding from $185,000 this year to $47,500 next year, a reduction of 74.3%. This level of funding for clubs is the lowest in memory. A decade ago, when the total S&A revenue was about half of what it is today, clubs were still funded at more than twice the amount that has been proposed for next year. Meanwhile, most other S&A funded activities remained stable, or in some cases increased. These cuts don’t reflect some failure on the part of student clubs, but rather a shift in institutional priorities. Despite this shift, the process included no broad campus discussion, solicitation of student input, or notification of proposed changes that might have signaled these new budgeting priorities.
This budget raises troubling issues for the campus. Clubs serve a vital role in engaging a diverse student body, and, as research shows, retaining their enrollment through graduation. These cuts needlessly and unfairly pit student clubs against other important campus services. The proposed budget would reduce the proportion of student fees controlled by students (club spending is entirely decided by students) and places a much greater share of student fee control into the hands of college administrators (for instance the Campus Activities Board and the Artist and Lecture Series—both worthwhile endeavors—have some student representation but also administrative input into the use of funds). Even contingency funds set aside for clubs would be subject to Senate approval, an approach which offers the dangerous possibility of engaging in institutional viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.
At the heart of the problem is our system of student governance. The Student Senate establishes the committee which determines funding allocation and determines approval of ongoing contingency requests. But the SPSCC Student Senate is not elected. Each year’s Senate is appointed by a combination of college administrators and the previous year’s Senate. What recourse do students have when the Senate misallocates the fees they’ve paid or fails to represent their wishes? They can’t vote them out! Beyond that, a single Senator vets applications to serve on the S&A funds committee; one unelected person determines the composition of the committee responsible for the entire allocation of student activity funds. The unexpected, unjustified, and unacceptable cuts this year reveal the lack of legitimacy in the current process.
The Board of Trustees should reject the proposed S & A budget for 2015-2016 and SPSCC should begin the difficult but vital work of making student government and the budgeting of student funds more transparent, democratic, and accountable to the entirety of the student population.
The Board of Trustees will meet on Tuesday, May 12 to review and again on Tuesday, June 9 to vote on this proposed S&A budget, both at 3:00pm in the Boardroom in Building 28. These open, public meetings have time allocated for public (and student) comment.
Submitted by the following faculty and staff club advisors:
Raymond Bateh—American Sign Language Club
Mark Baum—Law Club
Jennifer Berney—The Percival Review
Beth Cumberland—Nursing Club
Carolyn Fuller—Medical Assisting Club
Katy Fulton—Anthropology Club
Alexandra Gouirand—Club Français
Nausheen Kasmani—Muslim Student Association
Darrin Klaus—Maker Club
Anne Kelly-Glasoe—Latino Student Union
Violet Lamb—Rainbow Gang
Christine Moon—Teachers of Tomorrow
Caprice Paduano—Teachers of Tomorrow
Sarah Patterson—Welding Club
Jolene Stiles—Nursing Club
Aki Suzuki—World Arts Culture and Music
Patrick Tagesell—NERD Club
Sarah Tavis—The Percival Review
Luke Yamaguchi—Tomodachi Club