How Will Student Council Spend its $472k Budget?

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Our Magnificent Muckraker Sarah Ngu and Graphics God Stephen Davan have teamed up to dissect CCSC’s fall budget. Bwog is holding student government accountable like never before.

Update (10/11): CCSC has put together an informational video with VP Kevin of Funding Kevin Zhai, to explain exactly where CCSC’s money comes from, and where it goes.

For comparison, the GSSC's projected fall budget, before [email protected] payments, is $126,839.

Kevin Zhai, VP of Funding, is probably the most exciting player now on the Student Council scene — that might not be saying much, but his proposals to rethink everything about student group funding are groundbreaking and, to some, unsettling.

Kevin Zhai

Last Sunday, Zhai explained the process of funding and then opened the floor for discussion on how to best allocate funds in an “ideal world” (if that sounds like Plato’s Republic, Zhai is a philosophy major). From comments made by council members, this was the first time that many of them heard how money is actually allocated to student groups.

Here’s how student group funding at Columbia works:
Every Columbia student is billed $651 a semester for a “Student Life Fee.” $105 of that goes to Columbia College Student Council. CCSC keeps a bit of the money, and allocates the rest. Barnard, SEAS and GS all do the same, but CCSC has, by far, the largest amount of money.

Open questions:
While CCSC decides the budgets of groups that promote student life, it also puts on its own events that promote… student life. The council essentially decides how much money to give itself. Should CCSC instead be treated as one vote among many and invite all the relevant players—the governing boards who oversee all clubs on campus—to the table so that everyone can collectively decide how to split up funds? Or should it be viewed as the main body responsible for student life which delegates to governing boards to handle the details?

The immediate concern is what CCSC is going to do with that enormous $101k surplus, and $79k for discretionary spending (see infographic above). Council traditionally has tens of thousands of dollars in surplus, but $101k is unusually high. This is likely a result of low spending of late, as no new sources of funding have been announced.

Stay tuned:
Bwog will be publishing a series of articles breaking down the allocation of that 61.69% of the budget allocated to club governing boards—a diverse array of recipients, ranging from Community Impact to Greek life—and asking the questions: Were their allocations fair? Are these decisions in the best interest of the entire student body?

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  1. CC'09

    Let's do it like bush and give that surplus back as a rebate check! Then we can borrow money to liberate NYU.

  2. Obviously  

    into Club Sports!!!!!

  3. CC '12

    Give it to Bacchanal.

  4. Anonymous  

    this is outrageous.

  5. Kevin Zhai

    is a sexy beast! :D

  6. yourCCSC

    leave ccsc anonymous feedback/questions/comments by going to http://yourccsc.com/ and hitting 'talk to ccsc' in the top left

  7. yourCCSC

    new feature! send CCSC an anonymous messages or suggestions by going to yourCCSC.com and hitting 'talk to CCSC' in the top left corner

  8. Anonymous

    why do sophomore get more money than juniors?

  9. wait, sooo  

    i always see ccsc kids sporting "ccsc" embazoned jackets and tshirts...and then i realize they don't pay for them. that's where my monies are going? are you kidding me?

  10. GS nationalist  

    Mentioning the GS budget is indeed helpful.

  11. bschool

    the business school method? Clubs fund themselves. If you want to join a club, you have to pay dues to get on their mailing lists? The free market decides. That way, clubs which are popular survive and thrive. Those that aren't, don't.

    • Anonymous  

      What about students who don't have the money to pay dues but want to participate in an extracurricular activity? As it stands, CCSC can dole out money based on which clubs they feel do the most meaningful activities/ need the most money to sustain themselves/ have shown the best results in the past. If clubs were funded by students, they would focus on recruiting in more members and generating funds, drawing attention away from whatever activities they should be focused on.

      • I think

        that's compensated by the fact that the bschool doesnt charge the $651 student life fee, or if they do, it's way reduced. that way, students can allocate their own expenses based on their preferences. my bro who went to the b-school spent maybe $400 a year on his 10 clubs. it cuts out a layer of overhead (read: CCSC) and makes things more efficient.

        btw, I trust the individual club member way more than I trust the perenially renewed policy wonks of CCSC to allocate club monies. you're damn right clubs that were funded by students would have a fire lit under their respective asses to attract members -- as they should. they would also spend the money they get far more wisely, bc their funding levels are directly dependent on their members' satisfaction.

        • Anonymous  

          agreed! also, I would maybe leave the current amount to remain factored in to financial aid, so that students on a full ride could still afford clubs if the fees got more expensive.

  12. Anonymous

    ... can I have my student life fee back?

  13. Anonymous  

    Are you saying that you don't profit from the money you have invested? You are not a member of any student club? You don't use Lerner (as a whole)? The computer labs? The printing quota? The New York Times? The free lectures? The free museum admissions? The events in Roone/Party Space? The class T-shirts? Projectors in classroom? The machines in Dodge? Butler's books? Cubmail's webspace? The bathrooms?

    Cause if you're not, I'll personally give the money back to you.

  14. Lucky

    Sarah + Stephen = Dream Team

  15. Anonymous

    Super Splendid Statement!

  16. unemployed CC'11

    they can give it to me.

  17. Anonymous  

    80,000 is a lot to be undecided about

  18. Oh, Lawds

    Honestly, my high school student council had more to show for themselves than these junior bureaucrats. Then again, I do appreciate the weekly Havana Central advertisement that "Senior Underground" (lulz) sends me.

  19. Oh, Lawds

    Honestly, my high school student council had more to show for themselves than these junior bureaucrats. Then again, I do appreciate the weekly Havana Central advertisement that "Senior Underground" (lulz) sends out.

  20. Anonymous

    Wait, so part of my student life fee goes to the councils of the three colleges I don't attend? I don't mind my money going to fund clubs I'm not a part of, but it kind of bugs me that it's being used for stuff that doesn't impact me.

    • sarah ngu  

      No, the part of your student life fee that goes to Council goes to the Council of your college (CC, BC, ESC, GS).

      Councils do pool their money to contribute to the governing boards which oversee all clubs on campus, in a process called [email protected]

  21. cc 13  

    i dont know what free class t-shirts everyone's talking about. we have to pay for ours

  22. Tea party

    Can we get some lower taxes up in here?

    I'm serious. I dont believe that most people get their money's worth.

  23. Tea Party

    I think we should abolish student council and take back our university.

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