As the semester nears its end, Student Council members are taking a critical look at their long-term goals. While some objectives are coming to a close, others are being extended to next semester for further revision and work.
Among the long-term goals, StuCo’s Academic Support sub-committee will continue into next semester, but it is unclear whether the Ville Meals/Points venture will continue. The Rollover Initiative is complete but will require close supervision by StuCo members.
Rollover Reallocation Program
With SBC’s support, StuCo approved the Rollover Reallocation Program (also known as the Rollover Proposal), which changed student group funding processes and created a new funding committee. Student Council President Simon Zhu ’11 and Financial Policy Representative Ben Hattem ’12 have been working on drafting the proposal since last semester and discussed the proposal with Dean Braun and the Business Office.
Each of the past few years, SBC has run a budget surplus of approximately $100,000. This is put into the capital replacement fund, which is primarily used to replace expensive broken and outdated equipment for student groups.
Every few years, some of that fund is moved to the endowment. Hattem said, “Essentially, a significant portion of student activities fees is actually going into the endowment after a couple of years.”
StuCo members hope to address this “massive budget inefficiency” in two major ways. The first is to create a committee that will use the unspent funds in SBCs annual rollover funds.
The new committee, titled the Rollover Fund Grant Committee, will provide funding to students who have long-term project ideas and proposals that could “enhance the student experience at the college,” Zhu says.
The committee is designed to “allocate grants beyond the traditional events and projects that SBC and other funding committees typically grant,” according to Zhu. The grant funding will range in monetary amount, mostly in the area from $1,000 to $5,000 but some possibly going as high as $10,000, depending on the project.
With this new committee, the Fun Fund will be obsoleted. Hattem explained, “The kind of events it funded was unclear. We are not actually closing off any student funding opportunities, we are just making it more specific where they [funding ideas and projects] go.”
StuCo and SBC have also created new funding rules for addressing SBC’s large annual rollover. SBC’s annual Spring Budgeting process will now be allocated to items and events that student groups have officially planned to spend, with specific dates for when it will be spent. For instance, SBC Spring Budgeting will provide service money for photocopying and transportation, but not for individual proposals that have not yet been planned.
“The idea,” Zhu said, “is to minimize the amount allocated in Spring Budgeting and increase the amount of money allocated throughout the year.” Money granted will have expiration dates: if the student groups do not use the money by a certain date, it will return to SBC to reallocate for the rest of the year.
Zhu said that this will ensure that student groups do not end up overestimating their funding requests. He expects this greater oversight would lead to a lower budget surplus for the following year.
StuCo members predict that these new changes will ultimately result in a reduction of the Student Activities Fee, since SBC will get a better idea of how much student groups will actually use from year to year.
As a pilot program, these new changes will require close supervision by StuCo members. Zhu said, “Halfway through [next] year, there’ll be a review of how is this working, if students are interested in these grants, and if this is increasing the efficiency of SBC budgeting.”
This semester, StuCo’s Academic Support sub-committee has primarily focused on exploring options on providing more academic support for students and encouraging discussion on a potential Ethnic Studies Program at Swarthmore. Vice President Olivia Ensign ’12 said, “Even though WAs and TAs already exist, we’re looking at the possibility of more academic support programs.”
Originally, StuCo wanted to work with the administration and student groups on creating a bridge program for incoming freshmen to come to Swarthmore over the summer. The program would allow “students of different academic backgrounds to familiarize themselves with basic college work,” said Zhu. There were, however, a number of logistical and philosophical questions that arose in considering possible programs, ranging from cost to possible stigmatization.
StuCo has since switched from that objective to one of general academic support. Zhu explained, “We have expanded the scope of the subcommittee to things like academic support, course diversity, and customizing academic support to take into account diversity in background. For instance, members will be working a possible laptop sharing program where students could borrow laptops from McCabe overnight.”
Along with other StuCo members in the subcommittee, however, Ensign has primarily focused on bringing a guest lecturer, Columbia University Professor Gary Okihiro, to talk about the possibility of an Ethnic Studies program.
Ensign said that at the last strategic planning fireside chat, “There was a lot of interest in discussion of Ethnic Studies. Based on that student interest and the topic, we thought it would be good to bring a speaker.”
Ville Meal Points
StuCo members are exploring the possibility of a Ville Meal/Points system compatible with the current dining hall meal plans. The program has run into logistical hurdles, however.
“It is not feasible for students to just use their meal points from their ID cards,” said Hattem, “because the amount of money will then have to get reimbursed out of Dining Services. […] This could lead to a larger budget shortfall, a reduction of food quality, and workers getting laid off.”
It is unclear whether StuCo will still be pursing this goal next semester. One possibility currently being considered is using the ID card as a debit card in the Ville, with the money being loaded on by students.
StuCo will be tentatively releasing a Resource Guide later this semester. The Guide will provide information to students on many different aspects of campus life, including externships, funding, studying abroad, etc.
Members are also working on creating an email policy, delineating which student groups and leaders have access to the official student email lists. This will carry on as a long-term goal for next semester.