The Eastman Student Association is entangled in a financial crisis that has resulted in a lack of funds for student activities, and may lead to a possible increase in next year’s student activity fee.
This semester, the SA’s proposed budget was rejected by Dean of Students Phyllis Wade. The student activity fee for Eastman students is $40 a semester. When totaled, this equals about $19,000 from the entire student population. Last year, the SA overspent its budget because of errors in accounting and a steady approval of funds for any student organization that requests it last year. This left this year’s SA with substantially less money than the $26,000 it had planned on having. Essential costs, such as paying for busses, has further depleted this amount.
According to constitutional procedure every student organizations, including pre-professional and volunteer organizations and the fraternities, automatically receives $1000 every semester. If it needs additional funds for an event or a project the organization is required to propose an item specific budget one week in advance of the proposed activity.
Part of SA’s budget problem is that SA does not always follow these rules. One SA representative said, “A group came in the day before this lecture and asked for $150 to pay a guy they had invited to speak about the choral music of Estonia. Without any questions, it was approved.”
This year alone, SA has approved 100 percent of all proposals made. Only one proposal was not approved unanimously. It passed 13-1.
Some SA members attribute this to the apathy among SA’s members. One representative said she was nominated and voted for without her knowledge. While feeling too guilty to refuse the position, she added that she hates attending the weekly meetings. One way to the meeting shorter is to approve everything, which means that there are fewer discussions or arguments at the meetings.
Many of the annual student activities, including the ski trip and the trip to Toronto could be affected by the budget crisis.
Phi Mu Alpha President Jeff Willy said he fears that “SA will not be able to subsidize some of our events like the Spring Fling and our event at Jillian’s.” Students look forward to these annual events and the lack of available funds means that organizations must charge money or hold more fund-raisers in order to afford them.
Voting is also confusing. “The SA elections are never publicized,” said sophomore voice student Annamarie Zmolek. “I would vote if I knew when they were.”
Many students don’t know the procedures for running for an SA position. People who care to participate on SA are often excluded because they are unable to run for a specific position, or vote for candidates that represent their views.
“In my opinion, SA would have no problems finding willing participants among the Eastman student body, if they informed these students that membership in SA is a viable option. But I’ve yet to see them make a concerted effort to make students aware of SA’s very existence,” said violinist Lewis Wong.
Many students are also unaware that SA meetings are open to all members of the Eastman undergraduate population. When asked what she knew about SA meetings, sophomore guitarist Sarah Ikerd said, “I know that you get food for going.” The meetings take place every Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. in Director’s Dining.
Currently, the only way for SA to fix its budget problem is to raise the student activity fee. Thursday night, the SA will vote on a proposal to recommend an increase in the student activity fee from the current $40 to a yet undecided amount. If approved, the proposal would then go to Dean Wade, who would then pass it along to a board of trustees to decide.
Sophomore violinist Mark Woodyatt argues, “The student population should not be punished for the irresponsibility of a few.”