End nears for SFC deliberations

Last week saw a final push as many student groups fought to secure funding for next year and the appeals process of the Associated Students of Portland State University’s student fee committee wrapped up.

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Last week saw a final push as many student groups fought to secure funding for next year and the appeals process of the Associated Students of Portland State University’s student fee committee wrapped up.

Some student group leaders expressed uneasiness that, between declining enrollment and a static student fee, there just isn’t enough money to go around.

The reality is settling in: More groups are splitting the same $14 million pot of money this year.

“I think everybody is getting less money this year,” said Vanessa Robertson-Rojas, administrative coordinator for the Littman and White Galleries at PSU.

Robertson-Rojas said her group made a lot of cuts before submitting its initial budgets, in areas like postage and printing, but it wasn’t enough for the SFC. The SFC moved to cut funding for supplies and honorariums for visiting artists. However, Robertson-Rojas said the galleries’ request for a paid intern was approved, so the news wasn’t all bad. “It’s a trade-off,” she said.

Starting last fall, student groups submit proposed budgets, and after holding hearings on those requests, the SFC responds with a funding level it feels is appropriate. Student groups have an opportunity to appeal. The final appeal hearings ended last week.

With incidental fees locked in at $216 per quarter for a student taking 12 credits, new and expanding groups like the Veterans’ Resource Center and the Multicultural Center are taking additional slices out of a pie that is the same size as last year’s.

The SFC is “trying to cut everywhere they can because they didn’t cut fees and there are more groups,” said Matt Ellis, cinema coordinator at PSU’s 5th Avenue Cinema. “The initial cuts were severe. They’re trying to figure out what to do with less money.” Ellis is also a reporter for the Vanguard.

One group that had problems with the appeals process was Food For Thought Cafe.

“It did not go well,” said Jessica Goldman, an accountant and worker at the cafe. “As it stands right now, they’re talking about giving us one-third of what we got last year.” She said the SFC was concerned that some of the employee hours at the cafe were not necessary, and said that overall the committee is training a more critical eye on student groups this year.

“They’re questioning our purpose beyond just [being] a cafe,” Goldman said, “If we were just a cafe, we could cut all the bullshit and make money.”

SFC Chair Nick Rowe said he didn’t think Food For Thought’s budget would be reduced by such a drastic amount, adding that he thinks there is a lot of value in that particular group.

“Whenever you’re talking about reconciling two different levels of funding, there will be some contention,” he said. “The only reason [the SFC] would cut funding would be if we didn’t think funds were being used efficiently.”

Another point of contention was that some student group leaders felt the three-tier budget-proposal system the SFC uses—current (last year’s), baseline (“bare-bones”) and enhanced (“dream”)—was of little use in a year when most student groups will see few increases in funding. “I don’t think the SFC wanted to give anybody their enhanced budget, so I don’t know why you asked for it,” PSU TV Manager Justin Brown said at the appeals meeting Friday morning. “Please don’t waste my time; I don’t want to
waste yours.”

While some groups received funding for individual items on their enhanced budgets, SFC Vice Chair Katie Slayden confirmed that the numbers are tough this year.

“I don’t think there are any groups that got their entire enhanced budgets,” Slayden said.

Just how much of the $14 million or more projected to be collected in student fees next fiscal year groups will receive won’t be decided until the SFC completes its deliberations on Sunday, but that doesn’t stop some student group leaders from worrying about the outcome.

“I feel like it’s a confusing process sometimes,” Robertson-Rojas said. With each group allocated only 15 minutes to convince the SFC to accept their appeal, she added, “It’s hard to do at 7:30 in the morning and feel like you’ve done a good job.”