At their last meeting, the Union Senate passed SMR S09-14, which provided funding for this semester’s Midnight Buffet, which will be held on April 29th. The resolution called for $3650.10, and that total was apparently amended upwards to $3750 during the meeting.
The resolution itself is noteworthy for being over a thousand dollars lower than the traditional $5000 granted from the Senate’s operating budget for the Midnight Buffet. The decrease was made in deference to the cap on the Union Activities Fee, and I’m pretty sure the additional money was or will be transferred to the F-Board to distribute to clubs during emergency request meetings. This is a good gesture on the Union’s part to ease the substantial decrease in programming forced upon many clubs, but it’s still less than many people wanted. While $1250 helps a little bit, the full $5000 would have helped even more. Should the Midnight Buffet have been canceled in light of the F-Board’s decreased funds?
Those who have argued for cancellation point not only to the SAF but also to the economy in general, claiming that it’s irresponsible to spend so much money on a frivolous event (the Justice editorial page endorsed this perspective). Clubs could use the money for more substantial events than what North Quad Senator Alex Norris calls the Union’s “Bread and Circus” event. Giving the whole $5000 to the F-Board would open more of the SAF to the entire student body and take away from the amount that only the Senate has discretion over.
Proponents of the Midnight Buffet point to the event’s universal appeal and long tradition as a campus-wide celebration before finals. Students deserve a reward after a semester’s worth of work and need something to alleviate the stress of finals. I’ve heard many people describe the Midnight Buffet as one of their favorite events at Brandeis, and it always draws a huge crowd. $3750 wouldn’t amount to much money when you consider how many clubs would be asking for a piece of it. In addition, the Midnight Buffet is mandated by the Union bylaws, and changing the bylaw would make canceling the event a more complicated process than merely not funding it.
While I’ve always enjoyed the Midnight Buffet in the past, I think sacrificing it would be a small price to pay for the benefits of opening more money to the cash-starved clubs. However, I accept that mine may be the minority opinion, and I ultimately think the event should be funded at the discretion of the student body as a whole. In the future, I’d like to see the Midnight Buffet removed as a requirement from the bylaw; instead, I think the Senate should engage in more outreach and polling to determine on a semester-by-semester basis if the event is something the community truly wants. The money being used comes from everyone — it’s only fair that everyone should have a voice.
In the wake of the Finance Board’s marathon decisions, a lot of clubs have been wondering why they got so little money compared to previous semesters. It’s not the budget situation — the Union Activities Fee is fixed and thus divorced from the budget cuts. So why is everyone getting less than usual? Here’s the situation to the best of my understanding (all info courtesy of the Student Union Constitution. If I’m wrong at any point, feel free to call me out in the comments).
The Union Activities Fee is divided into three separate funds:
- The Union Government Fund goes to the government, providing the E-Board discretionary, the Senate discretionary, and several other small projects. From here, we get the newspapers, the bikes, the Midnight Buffet, and a bunch of other government projects.
- The Justice Printing Expenses Fund goes to the Justice. To maintain separation between the press and the government, the Justice doesn’t have to go through the F-Board for money.
- The Finance Board Allocations Fund is by far the largest fund, and it’s the one we’re interested in here. This is the money that goes to Chartered Union Organizations, which are all chartered clubs.
In the past, the Union Activities Fee has been fixed at 1% of the total tuition. This meant that inflation wouldn’t affect the Fee, because it would increase along with tuition. However, that changed as of this year. The substantial roll-over money that the F-Board had accrued convinced the administration that the Union was getting too much money, and part of the requirements they set for allowing us to keep the roll-over and build the new weight room was that a cap was to be placed on the UAF. Thus, when tuition increased over last summer, the UAF stayed where it was last year.
Unfortunately, the economy didn’t. As the cost of living has gone up, exacerbated by the recession, the money that the F-Board has to allocate isn’t going as far as it used to. It’s my understanding that the F-Board allocated money as they usually would during the fall semester, which is why no great changes were felt. However, that has left them with a smaller pot than ever before for the spring. Hence, across the board, activities that deserve to be funded have not gotten the money they deserve.
Solving the problem is as simple as convincing the administration to remove the cap on the UAF. The budget crisis may complicate that, but the increase would be a relative drop in the bucket to the shortfall we’re facing. More importantly, we need to assure them that the roll-over won’t happen again. Responsibility for the roll-over is somewhat complex and is shared between past F-Boards and clubs that didn’t spend all their allocations. However, last year’s treasurer Choon Woo Ha instituted several reforms to ensure that the problem wouldn’t repeat itself; I’m very hazy as to what exactly they are, but thetreasurer.org probably has more information if you’re interested.
In short, the problem isn’t with the current F-Board or the current Treasurer, Max Wallach (who I know from personal experience to be very thorough and good at his job). Let’s hope that the UAF cap is removed, and clubs will once again be able to get the funding they deserve.