Disappointed students left the basement of the Smith Memorial Student Union on Monday without the coffee and vegetarian staples usually offered at the co-operative, student run Food For Thought Cafe. Food For Thought could be closed for up to three weeks, while current employees scramble to release funds currently frozen by the Student Fee Committee (SFC).
Student-run cafe could stay closed 3 weeks
Disappointed students left the basement of the Smith Memorial Student Union on Monday without the coffee and vegetarian staples usually offered at the co-operative, student run Food For Thought Café.
Food For Thought could be closed for up to three weeks, while current employees scramble to release funds currently frozen by the Student Fee Committee (SFC).
The SFC allocates more than $12 million in student incidental fees to over 200 student groups, including athletics and the Vanguard.
John Lambert, the café’s Student Activities and Leadership Programs (SALP) liaison said if the budget he is submitting to the SFC this week is approved, Food For Thought could be open sooner than expected.
The SFC asked for additional documentation in January to support the café’s $96,695 budget request. After Food For Thought failed to present the documents, their budget was not approved. Last year the café utilized $26,349 in student fee money.
The new budget proposes to use $32,592 of student fee money for operating expenses that primarily purchase food and employee labor, reflecting a 12 percent increase from last year.
After Food For Thought’s budget proposal was rejected in January, the SFC set aside $32,000 in a reserve fund. Money from the fund cannot be used until the café produces the necessary documentation and presents a new budget proposal.
“The SFC sent back that original request because they thought that amount was just absurd,” Lambert said. His new budget has been trimmed by about $60,000 down to what the café actually needs to run smoothly, he said.
A vacation for a stipend employee and a line on the budget requesting $32,592 to “address [a] malfunction in the system” were eliminated from the new proposed budget, he said.
Lambert, who was an employee at the café last year, said he had no idea what “malfunction” the Food For Thought employees who assembled the budget last November had referred to.
Lambert only learned of the budget problem one week ago and has since pulled two other staff members together to try and hurriedly assemble the needed information to present to the SFC on Thursday of this week.
Amanda Newberg, SFC chair, has met with Lambert and his co-workers to help them prepare to present to the full committee.
“I think chances are good that they could walk out of that meeting with the funds they are requesting,” Newberg said.
Newberg attributes the miscommunication to a rough transition between last year’s and this year’s coordinators.
“As soon as they found out they were immediately trying to play catch-up,” Newberg said.
The café’s current SALP advisor, Natalee Webb, discovered the error just a week ago, when she was reviewing the budgets for all of the groups she advises. She began advising Food For Thought this summer.
Though Webb was relieved to have found the budget error, she said that she could have found it earlier if her department not been in such a state of disorder itself. Tonantzin Oceguera, the previous director of SALP, departed for a new position in August.
“I have 45-50 groups to advise, and so we talked about Food For Thought, but I think we just missed it in our transition,” Webb said.
Because student groups re-organize nearly every year, Webb said, communication between an out-going group and its replacements can be hard to establish.
“Transition is not a strength of any group on this campus,” Webb said.
Matt Gorby was perplexed when he arrived at the café Monday morning for his daily coffee fix, only to find dark windows and locked doors barring his way. Gorby was not surprised to hear of the closure.
“It’s kind of a refuge,” Gorby, a 30-year-old physics major, said.
Gorby also noted the staff seems to turn over every year.
“It is usually in the shambles the first few weeks anyways,” he said.