SBC Funds Publications; Talks About Problems and Feelings

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:
    1. Student groups requested over $85,853 more this year than last year.
    2. 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?”
    3. 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!

  • Go-mags

    I think it’s worth pointing out a discrepancy in the SBC’s response to this issue. Cameron Couch on changing the system for funding mags:

    “I think that setting aside money at the beginning of the year kind of makes for an awkward relationship between the SBC
    and other groups…It [wrongly] assumes that we’re willing to
    fund some large publications just based on their historical standing,
    but that we won’t be willing to fund other publications.”

    Of course, there’s one (and only one) publication that has exactly this kind of cozy relationship with the SBC. It’s the Argus. No wonder they weren’t “scrambling” to correct him in their article.

    If the Argus dropped their prestige-based biweekly publishing, it would enrich (literally, figuratively) the Wesleyan community and strengthen the quality of their articles.

  • cuervz

    THE SBC HAS NOT FUNDED ALL THE PUBLICATIONS AND THE ARGUS COVERAGE OF THIS EVENT HAS BEEN INCREDIBLY BIASED 

    • CC

      Every publication that has reached out to the SBC and has asked for funding has received it.  If I’m somehow mistaken, then I would gladly talk to whoever feels that they been left out.

  • Still pissed. Not convinced.

    well since last year’s sbc had a $68,000 surplus, it sounds like you’re only dealing with a net increase of $17,000 in requests that require consideration.  the whole point of the sbc is to make decisions about how and where to cut without jeopardizing an event, because there is almost always going to be more requests than money to go around. IMHO, cameron was just not good at his job.  and throwing out numbers like $85,853 appears no more than a pathetic excuse for running out early.

  • Editor ’13

    I think it’s misguided to take issue with the way particular members of the SBC did their job this semester (though earlier notification of the shortage in funds would have been appreciated!). The problem is systemic. In my freshman year the SBC was left with a surplus of tens of thousands of dollars and this year they ran out of money almost two months before the semester ended. Year-to-year discrepancies like this suggest that the process is fundamentally broken. And groups that are unable to ask for money until late in the semester–like publications, whose form and content are the product of a semester-long conversation–are disadvantaged as a result.

  • random passer-by

    The Argus got $39,476 from the SBC this year…including 11,735 for student workers. Wonder if some of that money could be channeled to other publications on campus? 

    • Wes ’14

      lets be honest– more people read the Argus than any other publication, no one is going to deny them money for a publication that very few people read. 

      • frostedmoose

        sounds like you’re asking for readership statistics to be compiled and filed.

        i kind of like that idea.

        • Go-Mags

          unfortunately, this wouldn’t get to the heart of the issue. the argus commands the largest readership because they are able to saturate the campus with their rank newsprint. hypothetical readership figures won’t have anything to do with the quality of the publication OR student interest in it. it’s a paper you read when you’re bored or want to look busy.

      • guest

        the argus is arguably the worst student publication on campus. half of its articles are horribly edited, and if not, they’re usually un-interesting. let’s be really honest, the quality of reporting at this school is abysmal, similar to the quality of news media across the board.

        Wesleyan has no interest in real writers, in real topics, or in engaging with any modicum of artistic culture. unfortunately, it seems that this is the only culture that perpetuates the prestige of this school beyond graduation, yet our funding focuses almost entirely on sports and publications like the argus that are at best ‘remedial’. 

    • Anonymouse

      Worth noting: The Argus returns a portion of this funding back in the Spring semester.  This year, it was $11k.

    • Anymouse editor

      Also important: part of the reason the Argus gets all that money is that they have outside funding sources, meaning that the SBC is only funding a percentage of their budget, instead of, as is the case with most campus publications, all of it.

      Additionally as someone noted below, the Argus gets something of an “advance” on the money they plan to make by sending Argi to alumni, parents, g-parents, etc. over the year. It was my understanding that it was typically student-worker money that was then paid back, but I could be wrong about that.

      – has worked for three campus publications

      •  “Additionally as someone noted below, the Argus gets something of an
        “advance” on the money they plan to make by sending Argi to alumni,
        parents, g-parents, etc. over the year.”

        Typically this is the case, but no subscriptions have been sent out this semester.

      • Where can I see that?

        “part of the reason the Argus gets all that money is that they have outside funding sources”

        Why aren’t any of these mentioned in the SBC budget requests for recent years?

        • CC

          Many student groups have outside funding to supplement SBC requests.  This can be found in the group’s Income/Department Smart Key accounts.  I’m not sure whether this budget info is public information, though, but if you were particularly curious, you could probably stop by the WSA Office and ask for it.

          • Clarification

            In the request below, you can see that this group has outlined their additional sources. How come no Argus request since the 2008/2009 budget has these fields filled out? If that’s because the information went private, do you know why that happened?

            If you don’t have the answers to these questions, relax, but if you do, I think it’s pertinent.