On March 5-6, students will vote on a referendum that would increase the student organization fee from $3.10 to $6.20. This increase is a small price to pay for a benefit that will immediately improve the quality of student life, and students should support it.
The initiative gained momentum last year, after ASMSU senators decided to allocate a one time $20,000 supplement to the Student Organization Funding Board to help meet increasing needs.
Money is granted to clubs by application, in two ways. The mass funding budget meets needs over $1000, and must be requested the academic year prior to use. The rolling funding budget is allocated throughout the year, and requests cannot exceed $500.
The majority of applications are for rolling funding, but the current lack of funding has led to organizations with events near the end of the academic year being far less likely to receive financial support.
Opponents of raising the fee increase, although few, say that an increase is a slippery slope. Once we begin raising the fee, they contend, we will continue to raise it without caution in order to appease a funding board that never stops asking for money. This contention is not supported by either the requests made to the funding board or the process of a fee increase.
In academic year 2011/2012, $216,348 was requested from the mass funding budget by 45 clubs, but only $50,925 could be allocated to 23 clubs. The severe disparity between monies requested and monies allocated does not represent flippant applications by club organizers, but realistic requests for improving the services each club provides.
A fee increase is not easily implemented. This increase was debated by the ASMSU Senate, will be put to a student vote and, pending the student decision, approved by the Board of Regents in May — which can only happen every two years. If this is a slippery slope, it’s at a low angle and it’s very rocky.
Student organizations are one of the ways MSU is able to offer a premier education. They help students to find their passions outside the classroom, sometimes creating an ideal situation where classwork supports a student’s primary interests instead of determining them. Additionally, most MSU students who go on to greatly impact their communities or receive prestigious scholarships often share a common experience: some type of leadership role in a student organization.
A noticeably quiet player in the issue of funding clubs on campus is the MSU administration. Increased involvement in student organizations is expressly mentioned as a metric of engagement in MSU’s strategic plan, and yet the dollar still rests entirely on student’s backs.
Student organizations are a perfect low-hanging fruit for administrative funding. First, students and faculty power these organizations, so there is no need to hire new staff. Second, students already support these groups: Roughly 20 percent of students are a member of at least one student organization.
If administrators don’t find a way to put their money where their mouth is, they can still find other ways to support clubs. The much-anticipated Romney Renaissance would present an ideal opportunity to create a space to support student clubs.
Whether you are a student voting on the spring ballot, or a member of the MSU Budget Council, we all need to keep student organizations in mind — they are one of the most cost-effective means of increasing the worth of an MSU education.