Student Financial Advisory Panel Meets with Administration, Seeks Student Input

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.

A Student Financial Advisory Panel (SFAP) was recently created to serve a liaison between the administration and the students in managing budget cuts. The SFAP is composed of eight students who have been meeting weekly with various deans and administrators; the meetings have focused on providing these students with background information about the focal areas for the upcoming budget cuts.

The Ad Hoc Group will release a tentative proposal of cuts on this coming Friday, November 13, in preparation for presenting a more final version to the Board of Managers in early December. On Friday, students of the SFAP will be permitted to see the list and provide their input on how they would prioritize these cuts. The school’s operating budget this year was between $114 and $115 million; the Ad Hoc Group’s proposal will attempt to cut $8 million from next year’s budget.

The SFAP was convened by Sue Welsh, VP for Finance and Treasurer, and Acting Dean of Students Garikai Campbell, with the goal of obtaining student feedback on proposed changes to the budget and dispersing information to the student body through the group. Various administrators and deans have met with the panel to present potential cuts in their areas of the administration, including financial aid, faculty and staff benefits, and facilities and capital development; Nate Erskine ’10, StuCo VP, has released reports on the first and second meetings.

Welsh said that the Ad Hoc Committee is “finding the panel to be a very helpful way to get student reactions to some of the items” where spending might be cut. She adds that these students will be “helpful in organizing communication” with the rest of the students at Swarthmore. While Welsh and other members of the Ad Hoc Group attend SFAP meetings, the student panel does not interact directly with the whole group.

The panel meetings so far have mostly been briefings, according to member Kevin Kim ’11. While the committee members appreciate that the administration is trying to engage students in the decision-making process through the flow of information, they expressed concern over how much impact their input would have.

On the same day as the Board of Managers Meeting, November 13, Welsh will present the Ad Hoc Group’s proposal to the SFAP. At this point, said Dan Symonds ’11 (StuCo’s Financial Policy Representative), the SFAP will have a chance to offer input on the proposal. Symonds is hopeful that, since Welsh has called the level of community input into this process “unprecedented,” the Nov. 13 release will be tentative enough to allow the students’ perspective to have some effect, although he says that there are “limits” to what the students can do.

Since the information concerns internal processes that the college doesn’t want released to outside sources, the administration is reluctant to disperse information electronically to the entire student body, according to StuCo Secretary Stephen Lefebvre. Student can learn about the Ad Hoc Group’s proposals by attending a student-only meeting this Saturday, the 14th. The exact time and place have yet to be determined.

This meeting is an attempt to provide students with the background knowledge to participate in informed exchanges with administrators. On the following Wednesday, November 18, there will be a town hall-style meeting with deans and other administrators at 7pm in Sci 101. By this point, said StuCo President Rachel Bell ’10, “the deans and financial aid office will have presented what they are officially willing to cut or alter,” and then will be willing to “gather student input and get a better sense of what we prioritize.”

Simon Zhu ’11, manager of the Student Budget Council, notes that SBC’s budget will not be directly impacted by any cuts the Ad Hoc Group proposes because SBC is funded by the Student Activities Fee. He acknowledges that SBC may be responsible for managing the funding for items once under the jurisdiction of the administration — this semester, for instance, SBC paid for the condoms in dorms that are usually provided by the Dean’s Office — but he does not seem concerned about the possibility, and urges students who are having trouble “acquiring funding for a particular idea” to come to the SBC.

Zhu encouraged concerned students “to first familiarize themselves with the online documents that are publicly available, and then get in touch with student representatives.” It is for this purpose, said Bell, that Student Council is coordinating the meeting on Saturday in preparation for Wednesday’s town hall meeting with the deans.

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