The WesBikes program, a student-run initiative that rented out 25 bicycles to students last semester, was deferred funding last month by the WSA Campus Initiatives Fund (CIF) Committee by a 3-1 vote. WesBikes co-directors, Chi Le ’13 and Charmaine Chen ’12, requested $4,725 to purchase 15 new bikes, but the CIF has differed the distribution of funds, in part because of concerns that the program has not established adequate administrative support.
“The funding for WesBikes has been earmarked, but we don’t feel comfortable giving it yet,” said WSA Vice President and CIF committee member Ben Firke ’12. “There are still some things we want them to take care of over the year or over the summer that would be a prerequisite to funding, but that doesn’t mean funding is rejected.”
Chen said that she has already established an agreement with Physical Plant to store up to 50 bicycles. Although she acknowledges that funding has been set aside for WesBikes, she is concerned that this funding would not go towards purchasing new bicycles.
“It appears that there is certainly money in the CIF that has been earmarked for WesBikes,” Chen wrote in an email to The Argus. “Our concern is that it does not go towards getting more bicy cles. This depends on a continual expression of interest as well as ongoing negotiations with the CIF to stress the viability of the program continuing in the long term.”
According to a response to WesBikes’ funding request written by the committee, which is responsible for distributing funds not spent the previous semester by the Student Budgetary Committee (SBC) to student groups, the committee’s greatest concern is that WesBikes cannot sustain itself without adequate administrative support. To resolve this issue, they would like Le and Chen to establish concrete proof that the administration will help maintain the WesBikes program.
“We want WesBikes to create a system through which they can cooperate with the administration for storage and logistics,” Firke said. “Students have been driving WesBikes so far, but it’s a hybrid between a student group and a student service, so it would be inappropriate for the group to not have some form of administrative cooperation going forward.”
According to Le, she and Chen had already proposed two methods for insuring that the program would outlast their individual careers at Wesleyan.
“In our response to their deferral, we cited discussions for creating an additional Sustainability intern to help the two WesBikes co-directors,” Le said. “Another option is to create incentive to be a director by funding a $200 stipend from the bicycle rental fees. It is also important to note that 24 out of 91 students who applied indicated interest in fixing bicycles.”
The committee agreed that establishing a third sustainability intern would be an appropriate method to establish a stronger relationship with the administration, but they feel uncomfortable giving funding before that position has been created.
Although Le understands the CIF committee’s request for administrative cooperation, she expressed that many of their initial concerns had already been addressed in the proposal, and that she and Chen had thoroughly demonstrated their ability to handle the program’s expansion.
“Their concerns about the viability of the program through institutional support were valid,” Le said. “But their other requests were already addressed in the proposal. I don’t know if they even fully read the proposal.”
Chen also questioned whether the committee fully understood how WesBikes was maintained when deciding to defer funding.
“I was surprised that we did not get funding, because we presented them with a list of 91 students that were interested in renting from us, as well as evidence of a successful first semester,” Chen wrote. “They appeared to not be aware of the fact that we had no problems charging rental fees through the Student Accounts Office, and they questioned our ability to collect fees for rental and damages even though we had already created a successful system for that.”
Chen also felt that an addition of 15 bicycles to WesBikes’ fleet would have been manageable without administrative cooperation.
“Chi and I are underwhelmed by the workload of managing 25 bicycles,” Chen wrote. “On distribution days, we generally are able to handle the rental site between the two of us.”
Both Chen and Le voiced their concerns about the funding deferral in a Wespeak published in The Argus on March 25, 2011. However, Le emphasized that the intention of the Wespeak was not to antagonize the committee.
“We didn’t want to upset the CIF committee,” Le explained. “We merely wanted to address the lack of transparency in the decision process.”
The committee expressed willingness to work with Le and Chen in the future to make sure that WesBikes is funded.
“We really want WesBikes to be funded,” Firke said. “We don’t like rejecting groups. We would just prefer the program have a stronger foundation, and we are more than happy to meet with them and explain it more.”