The Flat Hat urges Student Assembly to reexamine budget

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COURTESY PHOTO / EMMA FORD

At the Tuesday, April 2 meeting of the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly, over 60 members of the campus community delivered passionate remarks regarding the reduction of the Student Media Reserve Fund cap for the 2020-21 academic year.

Several representatives from Media Council organizations — including staff members from The Flat Hat — argued for a $55,000 funding threshold, a compromise reached between Media Council and SA representatives and a reduction from the current $75,000 threshold.

Meanwhile, members of multicultural organizations and underrepresented groups on campus urged senators to allocate an additional $20,000 to fund their own historically underfunded organizations.

Reserve funding is what Media Council uses for expenses beyond those necessary for normal operations like printing. This fund is helpful in the case of emergencies, exemplified in the recent flooding and repair of WCWM’s office, but even beyond the necessity for emergency expenses, the reserve helps media organizations with other endeavors to enrich campus life and improve the skills of their members. Whether it is sending students to professional conferences or bolstering efforts to host activities like WCWMFest and ROCKET’s ASTRAL fashion show, any activity put on by media organizations not directly related to printing, broadcasting or video production originates from Media Council’s reserve fund.

It is important to note that, contrary to the rumors circulated around SA, money from Media Council’s reserve fund cannot simply be given to multicultural organizations. Instead, the money will go into the Student Activities Reserve Fund, which can only be accessed by bills passed by senators. Senators brought up potentially moving the money into the Activities and Events Fund.

However, that can only happen if the $40,000 typically allocated to the Activities and Events Fund runs out. This is a rare occurrence — according to the memory of both outgoing Class of 2019 President Sikander Zakriya ’19 and Associate Director of Student Leadership Development Trici Fredrick, this has only happened once.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that $20,000 will be generated by cutting the Media Council Reserve Fund. The $20,000 figure that has been floated is not the true dollar amount that will be returned to SA; rather, it is just the difference between the two caps on the Media Council’s reserve fund.

The actual amount of money that will go into the SA Reserve Fund from the cut depends completely on the Media Council operating budget. The claim that Student Assembly can now allocate $20,000 more whether to underrepresented groups or otherwise, is both incorrect and irresponsible.

SA’s lack of communication with campus publications and multicultural organizations prior to the April 2 meeting reflects poorly on the Senate’s ability to effectively serve the student body. It is unfortunate that SA’s relationship with students and student media has been tarnished by insufficient transparency and a fundamental neglect of the various organizations and agendas present on campus.

In the aftermath of this debacle, we at The Flat Hat were deeply saddened by the divisiveness instigated between campus groups due to the misinformation spread concerning the ability of SA to fund multicultural and media organizations.

The Flat Hat fully supports the multicultural organizations and diverse groups that appeared at public comment last Tuesday, and a majority of our staff members were shocked and disheartened to learn how great the disparity in funding is between media organizations and these groups. Having learned of this inequality, we urge SA to examine their budget further and find a way to provide these groups with more enthusiastic financial support. Furthermore, we urge them to do so transparently, and inform all of the parties involved in the new budget creation ahead of the bill creation and voting process. The best way to design a fair, equitable budget is by bringing all parties to the table.

We eagerly await to see how the 327th crop of SA representatives will inspire productive dialogue and prevent miscommunication from disrupting the affairs of multicultural organizations and media publications alike.

The staff editorial represents the opinion of The Flat Hat. The editorial board consists of Gavin Aquin, Ethan Brown, Brendan Doyle, Nia Kitchin and Maggie More.