Submitted by Kenneth Myers. Myers is a fifth-year double major in chemistry and mathematics. He has been active in USG since March 2011 and is currently the Vice President of Student Life.
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As the school year comes to a close, most students begin preparing for their second or third round of midterms and eventually for finals. Studying for these exams is often on the forefront of student concerns at Stony Brook. However, two other aspects of campus life are also on students’ minds: the end of the year concert and club budgets. Both of which are related to the operations at the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). I have been an active member in USG for over four years, the longest of any current student, and believe that I can give some insight on both of these topics.
For the last four years, USG has consistently put on concerts that could be categorized as pop, rap, hip-hop or EDM. Because of this, USG has often been criticized for catering to a segment of the campus while eschewing the preferences of others. USG has even been accused of racism for only booking black artists to headline Brookfest. Furthermore, the people who feel that they are not being represented by these concerts often make themselves the most heard on social media.
This year, we made it our mission at USG to not only hold the most, but also the most diverse concerts in recent years. We believe we have accomplished this mission. In the fall, we had a pop/electronic rock concert (which featured Icona Pop, Five Knives, Lowell) and a rap/EDM concert, “Back to the Brook.”Coming into the spring we said that Brookfest would not be another rap/EDM concert like the previous fall and spring. After previously failing to book Panic! At The Disco in the fall, we managed to secure them for the spring concert and also plan a Streetlight Manifesto concert, the first ska performance in nearly three years. For the first time, we are putting on four large scale shows while also having a pop rock band headline Brookfest, in addition to also having ska, rap, hip-hop, EDM, pop and electronic rock all perform in one year. This year has shown more growth than any previous year I have been here.
Despite this, USG is criticized for Brookfest because Panic! At The Disco is either not “relevant” or because they wanted another rap/EDM concert. I think this is another example of the unhappy people being the loudest on social media. People who criticized us in the past have now praised us and people who have gotten their way every year are now on the other side of the table. What people need to realize is that not everyone is going to be happy 100 percent of the time and that this is a step in the right direction of trying to satisfy everyone at least once per year, instead of satisfying one segment of the population for the entire year. I would also like to point out that the concert choice could not have been that bad because, at the time of writing this, the Google form for ticket sign-ups has only been live for 12 hours with over 3,000 people having signed up, over 500 of which have said they would like to bring a non-student guest. The capacity of this concert is only about 3,200, so I welcome anyone to tell us now that this concert was still a bad choice.
At the previous senate meeting, on Thursday, April 12, the senate voted to approve the budget for the 2015-2016 academic year. I was very outspoken at this meeting about my issues with this budget and it is my opinion that it is the absolute worst budget to be approved by the Senate in recent years.
To start, clubs budgets were cut by about $170k largely due to their failure to apply for a budget by the deadline. This year, the law was strictly enforced while in previous years it was only loosely enforced. Numerous clubs showed up to the Senate meeting to request more money than what they were given or cut by. Among them included the Science Fiction Forum, the Chinese Association at Stony Brook (CASB) and WUSB, the radio station on campus. At the start of the meeting, there was $300k in unallocated funds and by the end of the meeting only $50k[of that amount] had been allocated. $40k of which went to SAB, which I told the senate did not need more than $30k.
This meant that there was still $250k left unallocated at the end of the meeting when the budget was approved. To put this in perspective, when the budget was approved in 2014, there was only $50k in unallocated funds.
Clubs that have been cut completely are only eligible for 50 percent of their budget through the fall revisions process. This means that next fall, the clubs that were cut are only eligible for about $85k of the $170k or so they were cut by. Removing this from the unallocated funds leads to $165k, at minimum, in the budget next year to protect USG from over-expenditures this year.
While USG did have a deficit last year due to the expenditures of SAB in 2014, SAB has been buffering itself all year so that it would not go over again. The only area that I have heard USG having a deficit this year is in payroll due to an increase in assistant hours and the increase in minimum wage. This deficit, however, does not add up to the
amount of $165k.
It was further curious that a sports club, which I’ve been told was put on probation for at least the next year for trashing a hotel room, was rumored to have had its entire budget in jeopardy because of its actions and has in the past allegedly assaulted a graduate student at The Bench, ended up with an increase in its budget. What message do you think this sends to students when we hold clubs more accountable for a budget deadline than for causing property damage at a hotel?
In short, there is more than enough unallocated funds to give to all of the clubs that were at the senate meeting on Thursday, and then some. I think USG needs to realize that we are not a business. We are not here to make money or save it, we are here to spend the Student Activity Fee in a way that benefits all of the students. It is good to be fiscally conservative to prevent over expenditures but when you have a $165k surplus it is fiscally irresponsible. When we have a surplus this big, people will question why USG needs more money. This question is sure to be provoked if an increase in the Student Activity Fee is proposed this year.