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Thursday, November 15, 2018

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SGA asks for a decrease in SFAC funding, hopes to set precedent


theriotsmith3

Shaun Theriot-Smith asked for a decrease in funding from SFAC this year – something previous administrations and other student fee-funded organizations have not done in a significantly long time. Photo by Pablo Milanese | The Cougar.

After four days of open meetings, the Student Fees Advisory Committee has finished hearing all the student fee-funded campus organization’s requests for fiscal year 2017.

While most organizations asked for increases in their budgets and one-time requests of several thousand dollars, the Student Government Association did something no student fee-funded group has done in a long time — asked for less funding.

“Our main mission is (to) let folks know that student government is attempting to set the standard for the conversation about raising fees and tuition,” SGA President Shaun Theriot-Smith said. “Our goal (is to work) as an advocate (and) to make sure that students are being told that tuition fees are being used in a meaningful and accountable way.”

Last year, SGA had a base budget of $158,028. This year, the association asked for a budget of $153,169 — a decrease of $4,859.

Theriot-Smith said last year’s administration left him an excess of about $20,000.

“(The last administration) definitely was not one to cut on spending, they ensured that they spent their budget,” Theriot-Smith said. “But (after) seeing what they spent their budget on it was apparent that they could have reduced cost and returned money back to the fund equity.”

If it weren’t for the new SGA office coordinator the Student Center hired, Theriot-Smith said they would have been able to ask for an even larger decrease of about $9,000.

Theriot-Smith said the last administration spent budget funds on marketing materials and promotional offers, but he thought it could be better used as a return investment back to students.

While promotional materials like T-shirts and bookmarks help spread awareness of different organizations on campus, Theriot-Smith said he thinks more student fee-funded units should start to collaborate on events to save money.

“Just saying that we did a 10 percent decrease is representative of what all organizations may be capable of, regardless of how big or small their budget is,” Theriot-Smith said. “Maybe there are some programs that are redundant, that haven’t been performing well — that’s something that I want SFAC to look at as a whole, not only for the fee funded units themselves (but) for the funding in general.”

Speaking on redundancy, Theriot-Smirth said his administration plans to use the leadership and development program the Center for Student Involvement has in place and eradicating SGA’s.

“(CSI is an) effective program, and it’s also a student fee funded,” Theriot-Smith said. “So, there’s no sense for us to do a leadership program and for them to do a leadership program. We shouldn’t feel that we are pressured into continuing the status quo, we should be comfortable with reducing fees if it makes sense.”

The status quo Theriot-Smith is referring to is one SFAC chair and third year law student Nathan Alsbrooks is all too familiar with. Alsbrooks served as a chair member last year as well and said organizations typically ask for more funding, not the other way around.

“It is advantageous for people to come to us and ask us for more money —they want to expand their promos, expand what they’re capable of — it’s in their best interest to do so,” Alsbrooks said. “We don’t expect anything other than for people to come and ask us for more money, but when you see somebody come in and ask for less, I think that’s refreshing.”

In order to foster relationships with potential future donors, Theriot-Smith asked the Division of Student Affairs to hire a full-time officer of student affairs that will push student organizations’ involvement with potential donors.

“If every organization had some amount of involvement, we could easily lower our fees,” Theriot-Smith said.

Theriot-Smith said he is hopeful that asking for a decrease in funding from SFAC will set a precedent for other student fee-funded units to look closely at their own budgets and see where they can cut costs.

Theriot-Smith said if every unit takes the time to do this, the student fee may be lowered from $250 — its highest in years.

“I want every executive team on every fee-funded unit to be held accountable for making sure that they are finding ways to return values to the students, and extend their return investment on their student fee,” Theriot-Smith said.

SGA Vice President Tanzeem Chowdhury said he thinks the administration’s request for less funding is one step in a long process that he hopes other student fee-funded units will follow.

“As far as the impact aspect goes, whenever you plant a seed, the fruit is not going to grow the next day — it takes time,” Chowdhury said.

“We have a lot of hardworking students that are trying to make ends meet. If we can spend that money better to make sure their experience is better, that is what we should be looking at. So, of course it’s going to take time to (make an) impact, but it is a start.”

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