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.
Student Budget Committee (SBC) Chair Jacob Adenbaum ‘14 joined the StuCo meeting last night to ask StuCo to raise the annual student activities fee four percent from $336 to approximately $350 per student. Adenbaum said that SBC has less money remaining in its operating budget this year than it needs.
Adenbaum said SBC currently has about $18,000 to spend for this semester but that he had originally expected a number closer to $25,000. To maintain an average weekly spending rate of about $2400, SBC needs upwards of $30,000 for the semester.
Adenbaum and StuCo Co-President Gabby Capone ‘14 both said that this shortfall results from the fact that the student activities fee is too low. Adenbaum said unexpected expenses at the end of last semester further increased the shortfall.
Adjusting for inflation, the student activities fee’s historical high is about $380, said Adenbaum. Capone said that a past StuCo had voted to lower the fee from that high. Because of an Administration rule that Adenbaum said caps annual increases at four percent, the student activities fee can only make its way back up to $380–and higher–gradually.
StuCo approved the four percent increase in a ten-zero vote.
SBC plans to borrow approximately $16,000 from its capital replacement budget, which is typically used to purchase long-lasting, big-ticket items like computers and vans, to fill the rest of the operating shortfall. The total operating budget would meet SBC’s goal for the semester.
Adenbaum said that due to slack in the capital replacement budget, “this is within the realm of what’s fiscally responsible to do.” However, he said that SBC cannot rely on this practice every year.
Adenbaum said SBC is looking into additional ways to increase the SBC budget.
StuCo has been discussing reforms to the group chartering process, which is laid out in Article V of the StuCo Constitution, since the fall. Last night Student Groups Advisor Lanie Schlessinger ‘15 brought a proposal for a revised Article V for a series of votes.
In short, the reform aims to simplify the chartering process while ensuring that any group chartered has the resources it needs to succeed. In previous meetings, Schlessinger has argued that because most groups that ask for charters receive them, the current chartering process amounts to so many hurdles and red-tape. She has also suggested that the Student Groups Advisor make an effort to offer advice to new groups rather than merely act as a gatekeeper.
The first revision, approved in a ten-zero vote, removes all representatives from StuCo’s Chartering Committee except for the Student Groups Advisor, while adding the SBC Chair. The new two-member Chartering Committee will meet directly with new groups to approve or deny charters, which is similar to the way it has functioned in the past.
Schlessinger said that it is extremely important for a member of SBC to be working with the Student Groups Advisor during chartering meetings because while StuCo rarely has a reason to deny a charter, SBC more frequently has concerns about requested budgets.
The reform also involves changes to the rechartering process. At the beginning of each spring semester, every group will be required to update their charter and their entry in the Student Groups Master List. Every charter will undergo review by StuCo.
Tabled until next week was a proposal to require that student groups show they are active on campus before being chartered. Because the chartering process can have a broad impact on the way new student groups grow from idea to reality, StuCo members said that it was important to require some period of activity before approving a charter, but that the bar should be set at a reasonably low level.
Next week StuCo will discuss whether that bar will require new groups to meet for a month or longer before being chartered. Co-President Victor Brady ‘13 said he thought groups should be asked to do even more, such as hold a public information session.
Student Resource Guide
Campus Life Representative Tony Lee ‘15 plans to put information about the chartering process into the Students Resource Guide, which will be finished before the class of 2017 arrives on campus next fall.
According to Lee, an outline of the Student Resource Guide has been prepared, and StuCo plans to survey the student body a second time to refine the Guide’s content. SCCS has told StuCo they can host the Guide online, and StuCo is considering having the Guide implemented as a wiki that students could edit.
Small Steps Forward
A link to the suggestions box for StuCo’s Small Steps Forward initiative has been added to the Dash. Small Steps Forward is what StuCo has been calling their push to complete smaller but more achievable programs like the bike-share and funded SEPTA tokens, both of which are nearly finished.
Fiscal Fireside Chats
Financial Policy Representative Natalia Choi ’15 suggested holding fireside chats with the student body in coming weeks in order to explain and discuss fiscal issues that affect the College.
An earlier version of this article was based on incorrect information regarding the student activities fee increase. While StuCo did approve a four percent hike, The Daily Gazette was originally told that the fee was to rise from $346 to $360. It is actually rising from $336 to $350.