Full disclosure: I was the Chair of the Student Budget Committee last semester during the media firestorm over The Argus’ funding. I, like many students at Wesleyan, strongly disagreed with the premise of Bryan’s article. I actively affirm that the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary. As a student leader my job was not to assess Bryan’s argument; instead, it was to determine whether or not the Argus should continue to receive the same amount of funding and they did. The funding that was allotted before Bryan’s article was not reduced over the course of last semester. I am currently studying abroad but I have maintained in contact with the current Chair of the Student Budget Committee to ease his transition. Thus, I was surprised to find that today the editors of The Argus released a piece entitled: “Editorial: We Need To Protect Publication Finances From WSA Politics”. I was even more surprised to find out the factual inaccuracies the piece included. As the SBC chair I prided myself on being as fair as possible while keeping my eye on the large budget that our committee managed.
Both the SBC and WSA are being unfairly represented in this piece. Here’s how: “Regardless of the WSA’s ability under the bylaws to reassume funds from student groups, a policy of retraction on the basis of donations is not stated and it would be outrageous for the student government to have a secret policy that all donations intended for specific student organizations can effectively be appropriated for other purposes by the SBC at any moment.” The SBC has now and has always had the discretion of appropriating funds in its budget. This is no “secret” just ask the Men’s Rugby or the Sailing Team or any other student group that has been asked to use the funds in their income account before requesting more money from the SBC. There are over 250 groups on Wesleyan’s campus, with a working budget of ~$643,000 (before deductions for Spring Fling, Concert Committee, The Film Series, Senior Class Committee, fees associated with student groups renting out spaces such as a Crowell or The Daniel Family Commons). The SBC cannot afford to inefficiently allocate funding to student groups especially when those student groups have other means of funding.
“Yes, The Argus receives a significant sum of money. We anticipate that next year we might require $24,000 for the full year, or $12,000 per semester. According to the WSA bylaws, the SBC budget is 84 percent of the Student Activities Fee (SAF), which will be $300 next year. Approximating the entire SBC fund to $756,000 (3000 students each paying $300, 84 percent of which goes toward the SBC), this represents 1.58 percent per semester of the entire SBC fund—3.17 percentover the course of the whole year, and 2.6 percent of the SAF.” Let’s talk about this semester because that is after all the semester in question. This year the SAF fee was $270. After deductions for the aforementioned “big ticket items” the SBC’s working budget this year was ~$430,000. Using their estimate of $24,000 annually the Argus would have received ~5.5% of the SBC’s annual budget this year. With over 250 other student groups vying for that same pool of money the Argus receives a large amount of that funding. Data shows that The Argus received ~ $35,000 about 8% of the SBC’s total budget last year. “The Argus has had 176 students serve as editors, managers, staff writers, contributing writers, photographers, layout staff, copy editors, web design, and more. Let’s assume it’s the same number next year, with each person paying a $300 activities fee. 176 people paying $300 comes to $52,800, more than double the approximate $24,000 the paper will be requesting.” First, let’s adjust for this year the number would be about $47,520. The real problem with this argument is that it assumes that these 176 students are only spending their SAF contribution by working at The Argus. That means these students are not: in any other clubs, attending any concerts, going to spring fling, attending any off campus conferences etc. Needless to say, there is no way to accurately calculate the amount of money The Argus should receive using that methodology. Transparency is immensely important. It’s something that I know the WSA’s Leadership Board is committed to.
I too believe in transparency which is why I felt the need to take a pause from this dream I’m living in Brazil and address the concerns I had about this piece. I hope those who’ve made it through all of this can understand a bit more about how members of the SBC evaluate how to fund student groups.