Prioritizing student needs
Student senate budget process needs more transparency
The Grand Valley State University student senate has control over what happens to over $1 million of the Student Life Fund. Even without looking at the details of where this money is going, anyone can see that's a large chunk of cash, one that comes with a lot of responsibility.
Throughout the year, the finance committee sees presentations from various student groups and organizations looking for funding for their group's special expenditures. After these presentations and many hours of deliberation, the student senate body comes to a decision about how funds should be split up, who needs more money and who needs less. We acknowledge that this is a large responsibility, one that most likely doesn't come with a lot of gratitude, however, there seems to be an issue of transparency and priority on the side of student needs.
The main decreases in this year's budget came from the Greek Life Council fund, the Spotlight Productions fund, the media fund, the performing arts fund and the recreational sports fund. When reading through the names of these organizations and looking at the services they provide, it seems as though a lot of the organizations taking cuts are those that focus on and involve students from a variety of interests.
It is therefore necessary for us as students to be aware of how and why these decisions are made. The student senate needs to be clear about their reasonings and what they look for when deciding to give money to certain organizations and take away money from other organizations. As with all governmental bodies, transparency is key.
The funds that saw the biggest increases were the cultural fund, the Presidents' Ball fund and the service and advocacy fund.
The Presidents' Ball fund was increased by $5,000 to reach $45,000, a 12.5 percent increase from this year's budget of $40,000. The fund's allocation has increased on and off over the past four years. While Presidents' Ball is a famous event at GVSU and sees a large student turnout, the event sells out nearly every year, which begs the question: what else is there to improve? We are left wondering where that extra $5,000 will be spent. A $45,000 price tag for a college party seems pretty extravagant.
The service and advocacy fund also went up $9,000 to total $59,000. With an oddly specific and high number, it has to be asked where that money will be spent. Many service and advocacy groups that send out volunteer trips, like Alternative Breaks, require the volunteers to pay for the trips themselves, not using the student life fund. While overhead costs are understandable, it's hard to imagine that's all that money is being used for.
There are many questions that come out of the student senate's budget finalization. How did it get decided where to cut funds and where to add them? Who decided that one fund was more important than another? Finally, how can students be privy to that decision process? $1 million is a lot of money to be divvied up in closed committee meetings.