A governing body having excess funds when the cost of going to college has never been higher is unfair to students and shouldn’t continue. The 97th Student Senate should reconsider its predecessor’s decision to hoard its wealth.
At the very least, it should reevaluate its priorities with appropriations and make sure its funds go to bettering the student experience, not helping the University recruit more students.
While the Wellness Fee is set to rise by $4.65 per credit hour and student wages are frozen in spite of a rising state minimum wage, Student Senate is sitting pretty with more money than it can spend.
Rather than decreasing its budget when it had the chance in March 2019, the governing body designed to represent student interests decided instead to contribute $10,000 to help the University make improvements to the Student Engagement Center.
Besides the fact that Student Senate appropriations should always go to student organizations rather than employees representing the University, the appropriation from Student Senate isn’t even necessary for the project to go forward.
The Office of Student Involvement is contributing $60,000 to the project, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is contributing $10,000.
When proposing the appropriation, Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion Justin Mallett said while some sacrifices would have to be made without 13% of the total budget if Student Senate had not appropriated the funds, the project could have been accomplished.
While the SEC is the home of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and a hangout spot for some students, it’s also a featured stop on campus tours and the home of the offices of two of Student Senate’s three advisers.
A year ago, Student Senate’s ad hoc fees committee proposed lowering the co-curricular fee, which gives Student Senate its budget, by $0.10 per credit hour. This decrease would have shaved around $15,000 off of the budget.
This decrease was proposed because of the unspent $30,000 that rolled over from the 2017-18 school year to the 2018-19 school year. Junior Class Representative Madi Cobb said during the 2019 fees discussion that when she was chair of the Student Affairs Committee, she felt pressured to spend all the money in the budget.
“Sometimes I felt I was blowing money just to spend it,” Cobb said.
At the time, the senators who voted in favor of maintaining the fee said Student Senate could be doing more with its budget and decreasing it would only stunt its growth.
But rather than offering more appropriations to student organizations or proactively finding ways to use the money to directly benefit students, the funds have sat around, waiting for University employees to ask Student Senate for help with building upgrades.
In fairness, Student Senate also appropriated $6,000 to build a bus shelter at a Safe Ride Home shuttle stop, but before that, the rollover funds were used for new carpet and paint in the J.W. Jones Student Union ($15,000) and cosmetic upgrades to the International Flag Plaza ($3,356.29).
Making the University look better shouldn’t be Student Senate’s priority; helping students should be.