Here’s something of a nice end to an otherwise thoroughly frustrating story.
Back in mid-April, we found out through the Argus (and through the mass verbalization of concerned parties, probably) that the SBC prematurely ran out of funds for the semester—by late March/early April, it seems. This meant that student publications (and whatever student groups had operations late in the semester) were completely denied funding through almost no fault of their own. As the Argus article reported,
Members of publications cited the fact that the SBC requires groups to specify exact amounts when applying for funding, while the exact amounts of money that publications will need will remain uncertain until the end of the semester.
Flash forward to today, and the SBC seems to have managed to come up with the cash late in the fourth quarter to give student publications the funding they need. They did this through a “reassumption” process—which basically involves pressing student groups who have received funding earlier in the semester to cough up leftover cash. (The SBC was able to reclaim about $4,000, which to me is somewhat unsurprising, as it’s pretty well-known that excessive funding requests—and other forms of corruption—is fairly prevalent in the SBC-student group interaction. See relevant awkward bits in the WSA Prez Debate.)
As one would expect, the SBC came out of this entire episode pinned beneath a dense hail of criticism. (But then again, they’re always under fire). In response to this, Cameron Couch ’13, the SBC chair, posted an open letter on the WSA website to publicly acknowledge the criticism, clarify the narrative of the problem, and suggest in which areas improvement can be cultivated. Choice morsels and key points after the jump.
- The move to end the SBC early this year was a conscious, partially strategic one. Couch sets up the logic in this manner:
- Student groups requested over $85,853 more this year than last year.
- Faced with a situation whereby more money on the whole is being requested of a fixed amount, and whereby the requests come in at different times due to a variety of reasons, the SBC was pressed to make a choice. In Couch’s words: “do we reject valid, well-prepared requests from groups who met with us early simply to accommodate the needs of other groups who haven’t yet met with us? Or should we choose to favor those groups who came in earlier in the year, citing a “first-come-first served” reasoning for our decisions?”
- The SBC sought to hit the middle ground, coming up with a fairly innovative solution: ending funding early benefits the student body by giving the SBC more time to retrieve unspent funds. (ed note: is it possible that much of the discontent was prompted by involved non-SBC parties not knowing that the decision to end early was a strategic gambit?)
- The SBC is a human committee. Couch writes:
It’s also important to note that the committee is imperfect. We are a group of seven students who sit in a windowless room on Monday nights. We are volunteers. We do not get paid. We are not professionally trained in any way whatsoever, but we are all students who care deeply about making student life at Wesleyan more enjoyable, diverse, and (even sometimes) educational.
- Couch acknowledges and respects the discontent, but invites you to come into the fray:
Sometimes people get mad, and sometimes things don’t work out as planned. While accusations against the committee and myself are a good way of keeping us in check (even if they may sting), I’m of the belief that the easiest way to enact change is through direct action. And what would be a better way to fix these perceived issues than to join the committee itself and manifest these changes in your own actions?
Good stuff. I’m still a little confused by something, though; on my reading of the situation, the student publications were necessarily forced into this position due to the nature of their structural requirements. This suggests the possibility that other forms of structural inequality for different kinds of groups exist but aren’t necessarily explicit. If this is the case, problems like this is bound to happen again and again, and the lives of those who serve on the SBC will continue to suck again and again. I wonder if the “first-come, first-serve” format of funding requests is at the root of the entire problem?
Anyway—have a good Wednesday, folks!