Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
College deans, Student Council, and members of the Student Budget Committee are currently discussing the possibility of donating SBC’s unspent funds for the year—funds that come from the student activity fee—back to the college to help cover college expenses. Student Council is likely going to hold a student referendum on whether or not students want to donate these extra funds, and what they want to donate them to.
Youngjun Heo ’09, Student Council President, explained that he got the idea after Dean of Students Jim Larimore pointed him to an article about similar donations at schools like Amherst. “We do have these extra funds at the end of the year that typically go to the capital replacement fund, but because that has constantly been replenished, students have a unique opportunity to make a donation and help other members of the college community.”
Fletcher Coleman ’09, SBC Manager, explained that the rollover funds come from money allocated to student groups that doesn’t get spent over the course of the year. For example, if your club asked for $200 for all-campus events but only spent $100, the unspent $100 would become part of the rollover funds. The aggregate sum is usually between $15,000 to $90,000—“last year I believe it was somewhere in the vicinity of thirty to forty thousand,” but there’s no way to know how much money will be left this year until SBC closes its books in May. The rollover funds have no effect on spring budgeting, which has already occurred.
This money is typically placed into the capital replacement fund, which is used to maintain student-owned equipment such as vans, SCCS servers, and the sound systems at Olde Club and Paces. “We are required by the college to maintain it at a level of $300,000, which is twice what it would require to replace all the equipment at once.” Coleman explained that “eight to ten years ago, the committee wasn’t putting any rollover into capital replacement, and they ended up in a situation where they had completely depleted it over the course of five years, so spending the rollover funds on any regular basis is bad.”
Coleman added that the student activities fee is supposed to be used explicitly for student activities, and that SBC’s mandate is to make sure it benefits as many students as possible. Heo and other members of Student Council have been going over the budget cuts with Treasurer Suzanne Welsh, and Heo promised that “we will do our very best to determine which of these cuts are most relevant to the entire student population… [and which] could potentially be something students would want to donate to.”
Heo also stressed that this donation would be “a one-time deal. We don’t want to have this obligation every single year to turn over student activities funds… we just understand that this is an incredibly unique time.”
Heo continued, “I need to make sure that students are informed about this decision and have a hand in making this decision,” meaning that if it goes forward, students will get a chance to vote on whether they want to donate the funds at all, and on what they would most want to donate them to. Heo said that personally, “if I had a choice I would want it to go to workers’ benefits,” but said that he was excited to learn about all the possibilities.
“It’s going to be a symbolic gesture to begin with,” explained Heo, “but once we understand how much the figure is, that’s when it will be a more practical and well-understood decision… we’ll know what we can effect.”
Student Council will be discussing the plan in Parrish Parlors at 12:30 PM today, and at that time, they will decide whether or not to add a question about transferring funds to the Student Council election ballot this weekend. Council is also planning to have a fireside chat to solicit student input sometime in the next week, although a time has not yet been decided.