The African Students Union’s budget was cut by more than 81 percent; multi-ethnic groups cut on average by 49 percent
Senior News Writer
The student organization budget allocations resulted in large cuts to multi-ethnic organizations’ budgets much to the chagrin of their members. All student groups, on average, were cut 38 percent, and the 14 multi-ethnic groups on campus were cut an average of 49 percent.
Campus Council usually undertakes the budget allocation process. This year, however, the budget was done by the SGA budget committee, which consists of SGA members as well as non-SGA students. “Representatives were selected to include connections to as many groups on campus as possible,” Kalinay said.
Furthermore, the committee adopted a practice of item-cutting at the urging of Campus Council, because they would rather fund whole events. However, “Any group can reallocate funds from one item to another as long as it was part of the original budget,” Kalinay said.
“Council chose to allow SGA to be the budgetary review body in the hope that the process would become more transparent to the campus community, and that outrageous budgets would be kept ‘in-check’ by the student body,” said Campus Council representative Eric Painting ’14.
Despite these hopes, the budget committee was greatly affected by the very small amount of time they were given to decide the budgets for more than 100 student organizations. Consequentially, cuts were made that have been called in to question by some groups.
One of the most prominent examples is the African Students’ Union (ASU), whose budget was cut by more than 81 percent. Their budget was one minute late, but the group considers the cuts extreme. The Africa Night performance, which is their biggest event and serves to educate the student body about African culture, was cut in its entirety. The SGA budget committee explained in their budget allocation letter that they believed “similar events are hosted by W.A.C.” Ainslee Robson ’15, the vice president of ASU, felt offended that the groups were considered to be “under the same umbrella…it just seemed very wrong and insensitive.”
Peter Jeffy ’14, the public relations representative and vice president-elect for Men of Harambee, quickly organized a meeting among the multi-cultural groups to discuss and troubleshoot the issue. The meeting on April 28 was attended by a large number of multi-ethnic group members as well as members of the budget committee: SGA Treasurer Steven Hardy ’14, Justin Kalinay ’13, Thanh Dang ’15 (International Student Association, SEA-US) and Joe Weston ’16.
Mamoudou N’Diaye ’14, who is on W.A.C. Cultural Topics committee as well as ASU, affirmed that the two groups are not comparable, saying that W.A.C.’s central purpose is to entertain and that there is never any guarantee that they would do an event similar to the Africa Night performance.
“It’s belittling us to entertainment and only putting on spectacles,” Robson said of comparing the two groups.
Other items on ASU’s and other groups’ budgets were cut for “lack of specificity.” Deja Moss ’14, president-elect of the Black Student Association, commented on the budget form: “It did not present us with a way to prepare the best budget.”
Furthermore, the groups were not given much chance to defend their budget requests: the time slots that were available to do so were ten minutes long, and groups stated they were given about five minutes to talk.
Furthermore, Robson tried to appeal ASU’s budget, but upon doing so learned that all the slots had already filled: a problem that many other groups have encountered. These issues may in part be symptoms of the severe time constraint placed upon the budget committee to complete the allocations.
Hardy stated that the item-cutting method will not be a part of the budget allocation process in the future.
“There will be a lot of things that are different about the way budget allocations are done next year,” Hardy said. The budget committee, like many students, was not entirely satisfied with how the budget process worked.
Despite this assertion, students are concerned about next year’s budget and feel that these cuts are evidence of general insensitivity and a lack of knowledge on campus, asserting out that SGA may not be very familiar with the student body that they are supposed to represent.
Hardy, upon being asked if he had a good understanding of the multi-ethnic organizations and their missions, answered that he did not.
“They are not knowledgeable or actively trying to be engaged with the students they represent,” Jeffy said.
Ngozi Cole ’15 also voiced her concern: “It shows layers and layers of insensitivity and it’s a much bigger problem than just budget allocations.”
Africana Studies Professor Boubacar N’Diaye, advisor of ASU, is also concerned about what the budget cuts signify: “Budgets are not just a number: they really signify value choices, and I think that should never be forgotten…what does it say to cut any student organization by a whopping 81 percent?”
In 2012, Danny Ha, Program Coordinator for Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and Office of International Student Affairs, formed a Multicultural Student Council, which students hope can be utilized to prevent higher budget cuts for multi-ethnic organizations in the future. Jeffy hopes that each multi-ethnic organization will be required to have one representative at each meeting, and that this council can be used to solve budget issues as well.
Some students proposed the budget committee to set aside a lump sum for the multi-ethnic organizations, and have the groups divide this amount amongst themselves. Since the budget cuts apparently stem from a lack of communication and understanding between SGA and the groups, they are hopeful that this issue could be resolved amongst themselves.
If SGA were to maintain control of the multi-ethnic organizations’ budget allocations, Moss suggests, “there should be some new requirements put on the ballot for us to have someone be on SGA.” Currently, the BSA and ISA alternate with one representative on SGA each year. Furthermore, they suggest that SGA members should be required to dedicate a certain amount of their time to different types of events across campus, in order to gauge the student body more accurately.