GUSA Explores Student Activities Funding Reform
Published: Friday, November 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, November 1, 2013 02:11
The GUSA senate established a subcommittee on funding reform Sunday, coming toward the end of a year in which student activities funding plateaued and approximately 63 percent of funding requests were met.
Finance and Appropriations Committee member Robert Shepherd (MSB ’15) proposed the creation of a subcommittee on spending reform that was approved with a unanimous vote.
“We’re creating this subcommittee to focus on addressing some current funding issues we’re seeing across student groups,” Shepherd said at the senate meeting.
The committee will evaluate the current structures for funding student groups before emitting any suggestions.
“There is a general consensus within the senate that a re-evaluation of the funding systems on campus needs to take place,” Shepherd wrote in an email. “If we determine that changes do, in fact, need to be made, we will work with the groups to bring about these changes.”
The re-evaluation comes less than two years after the student body approved the Student Activities Fee and Endowment reform in a January 2012 referendum. The reform increased the student activities fee from $125 in the 2011-2012 school year to $150 in the 2012-2013 school year, with the understanding that after those two increases the fee would only increase to compensate for national inflation levels. This year, Fin/App allocated $979,200 to student groups.
“If groups were hurting across the board, severely underfunded and unable to complete their functions, that would be an issue that would make it worth considering adjusting the Student Activities Fee,” Fin/App Chair Seamus Guerin (COL ’16) said, though he maintained that increasing the fee is not currently necessary.
Former Fin/App Chair Sheila Walsh (COL ’14), however, called for another student activities fee reform in March after the previous funding cycle.
“In addition to all the independent student initiatives, the need far, far outweighs the money that we have available to fund those student groups and initiatives,” Walsh said.
Student Activities Commission Chair Jennifer Chiang (SFS ’15) agreed that student activities funding could use re-evaluation.
“There needs to be a discussion about the Student Activities Fee that involves students and their informed perspectives,” she said. “Our organizations have ambitious and innovative programming ideas, which is amazing; however there is not enough funding to go around to make all of those events come to life.”
According to former SAC Chair Jack Appelbaum (COL ’14), tying the student activities fee to inflation is realistically a 1 percent increase. Appelbaum called for overhauling the student activities funding system during his campaign for GUSA executive in February.
“It would be nice to see the fee grow,” Appelbaum said, adding that a fee increase would raise tuition, which has already increased by 4 percent in the past year. “It’s tough.”
While Appelbaum did not acknowledge any concrete plans for reform in the future, he said he heard rumblings of student activities fee reform, rather than increases, within GUSA. However, GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) said raising the Student Activities Fee is not currently a priority.
“I think the fact that we can’t fund all requests doesn’t mean that we’re failing, it doesn’t mean that the system doesn’t work,” Tisa said.
Lauren Watanabe (MSB ’15), president of the Hawaii Club, said that while her club would always like more funding, the problem is not the activity fee but rather SAC itself.
“They need to break down where the money is going so I can understand that my student activity fee is justified,” Watanabe said. “SAC is not really supportive even though they’re supposed to be here to support us.”