A major increase is planned for the student activity fee next year. Paul Shrode recommended a proposal to LUCC last Thursday that suggests raising the amount to $180 per year. The last major increase like this was in 1991, according to Vice President Adam Locke.
The funds generated will go directly to LUCC, which will redistribute it to student groups.
An accompanying proposal would direct LUCC to take this increased budget and earmark the funds for specific categories of groups: campus programming, publications, and other student groups.
Until approximately five years ago, the LUCC finance committee used a similar set of guidelines in their recommendations to LUCC. The changes could mean a slight shift in funding to programming and publications.
Presently, Lawrence students spend less money on campus activities per student than other colleges.
LUCC first investigated these proposals during a retreat last spring. They determined that a substantial increase in student activity fees was necessary because they needed to fund the Gannett campus newspaper readership program, at a cost of nearly $20,000 a year. They also needed to address budget deficits for student publications, and felt that increased programming was necessary as a result of changes in the Greek system. As a consequence of these changes, this year LUCC is operating with a budget deficit.
According to Associate Dean of Student Activities Paul Shrode, “At a time when we are embarking on a formal group housing process that will undoubtedly involve some reduction in the number of dollars that fraternities spend on all-campus programming, I think there is an increased need coming.”
The second proposal brought to the council by Shrode could have a longer-term impact on the school community. Historically, LUCC has funded organizations along a rather loose set of guidelines. This second proposal would provide more explicit guidance to the finance committee in funding organizations.
Shrode noted that it would be more appropriate to treat groups like SOUP and the publications that serve the entire campus in a different manner than groups that appeal to a smaller part of the community.
At present, all organizations are ostensibly treated equally by the process, although last year SOUP was allowed to make its annual budget request during second term, before all other groups made theirs in third term. The early request by SOUP, a sub-committee of LUCC and not a student organization, was necessary due to the conifnes of event scheduling.
According to Shrode, “One of the issues for us is that the finance committee looks at all requests as coequal. If the community feels that having a newspaper is more important than having a literary magazine, those are decisions that the community needs to render to make good use of its resources. The fact of the matter is that they don’t [take into account how the community values different organizations].”
At the LUCC meeting, several representatives were concerned. According to the official minutes, “[Cole] Delaney asked if these percentages will institutionalize percentages that may have in the past been controversial, regarding funding of organizations such as SOUP.” Shrode felt that this particular comment was unfair because he believes that most SOUP events are popular.
“I recognize that Cole has been a critic of some of the kinds of things that SOUP has brought in. I think that it is very easy to critique something. Being a part of the solution rather than a critic of the problem is where the council needs to go. It is very clear to me that the very greatest audiences are appearing for the very programs that he personally does not like,” said Shrode.
The other LUCC members concerned about this proposal felt that it somehow would promise SOUP an automatic increase in funding. According to SOUP president Megan Comer, “This is absolutely, one-hundred percent not a SOUP proposal.”
According to Comer and others in the organization, SOUP was not even aware of any of the changes proposed. According to SOUP/LUCC liaison Peter Iverson, “At this point there is still a lot of confusion about this policy.”
A second part of the new LUCC budget would be devoted to student publications. According to Shrode, “The three student publications that we are dealing with have a long history of spending beyond their means. And it is not entirely their fault. It simply costs what it costs and the council has underfunded them historically.”
A portion of the increase would allow LUCC to subsidize fully Ariel, the Lawrence Yearbook, a publication that a significant number of Lawrentians have historically not purchased. The Lawrentian and Tropos, the Lawrence literary magazine, would also receive budget increases that would enable them to escape the cycle of structural losses.
The third component of the new budget would be an increase for the general fund. This would allow LUCC to finance the growing number of groups that serve the increasing enrollment at Lawrence.