How Will Student Council Spend its $472k Budget?
Written by Bwog Staff
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?