A need to redefine the Student Activity Fee

The Student Government Association (SGA) has no idea what it is doing.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain why this is not the damning indictment that it seems. Specifically, SGA has no idea what it is doing when it comes to allocating money to what they call Tier I organizations—the Student Center and the Campus Recreation Center (CRC). These two organizations both have annual budgets of over $1 million, determined entirely or mostly by the whims of the often unruly SGA budget process.

How it works, in short, is that every year students give $123 of their (or their parents’) hard-earned scratch per semester, which goes into a big pot. SGA takes this money and allocates it in budgets to the previously mentioned Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III, Of the almost $5 million allocated last year, $3,233,875 or 69 percent went to Tier I.

The first problem is that SGA does not really have the ability or the time to understand the requested budgets of these organizations. The CRC, which accounted for a staggering $2 million of the budget, is literally a multi-million dollar recreation center and gym.

Understanding everything it does and how it spends its budget is a full-time job. Yet we apparently expect that students who already have a lot going on can become informed enough to make strategic cuts.

I could go on a rant about the various ways SGA wastes money. SGA has spent money on things such as rewards for members doing what is, essentially, their jobs, like food for its members and other things which it would never approve for other organizations.

SGA even offered a bill to pay for members to have dinner at Gordon Biersch, although apparently sanity prevailed at some point and the bill failed—but only barely.

While SGA does actually think through most of their funding decisions. My point is just that their judgement is not unassailable.

This is not the only problem with this arrangement, however. It also means that SGA has less time to be more thorough in reviewing the budgets for things most students would actually think about when discussing “student activity.”

With meetings that usually run past midnight, having to sort through these massive budgets prevents SGA from carefully considering smaller budget.

The solution is obvious. Break the student activity fee into two or three fees. Fund the Student Center and CRC through their own fees and let budgetary decisions be made by those within those organizations who have the time to understand the impact of cuts.

This would not only give SGA the time to spend more time considering the budgets of student groups, but it would also make clear to students where their fee money and make everyone more accountable to the student body.