It’s not every day that Student Senate happens across a jackpot fund of approximately $150,000.
For nearly a decade, any activity fee money which had not been used at the end of each year was rolled over into a restricted fund, which has now grown to a sizable amount. The fund’s existence was unknown to Senate until this year.
At the beginning of the term, Senate created the Special Meeting on the Use of the Restricted Fund (SMURF) to survey the student body and determine just how to put this money to use.
“This is a very game-changing thing at Knox,” Senate Communications Officer and SMURF co-chair senior Chris Bugajski said, “not only deciding how to spend the money…but also actually drawing the policy behind it.”
While Senate distributes funding for activities regularly each year, there is no policy precedent for distributing this rollover money. Thus, SMURF is charged with determining not only what the money will be spent on, but also the institutional process through which it will be spent.
The SMURF online survey conducted earlier this term asked respondents to choose three general categories in which they would want the money spent. The top three were recreation, sustainability and entertainment, with academics at a close fourth. Only 366 students responded to the survey.
“We have a surplus of cash and a deficit of ideas,” senior Senator Abe Zumwalt remarked about the survey after the Jan. 13 Student Senate meeting. “This is the only place in the country where that has happened.”
According to Bugajski, the next step for the committee is tabling for more specific ideas and figuring how those ideas fit into the general categories spelled out in the survey.
The most popular specific idea thus far has been composting, Bugajski said. But he also mentioned renovating the basketball court near the Quads and getting an adult-sized jungle gym, though he did acknowledge potential liability issues with the latter.
Freshman Alex Uzarowicz mentioned some other projects for which the money could be used, including renovating Seymour Hall and increasing workout facility space. He also questioned the necessity of composting.
“Let’s think about the stuff we need,” Uzarowicz said. “I know the fitness facility is pretty new, but it would be awesome if would could work on something that everyone can use. We have to look at what we need.”
According to Bugajski, it has already been decided that the restricted fund will not be distributed in its entirety. About $50,000 will be kept aside in the event that enrollment is down during a given year. That way, Senate can dip into that fund instead of increasing the activity fee for all students.
“Also, hopefully, the money will be spent over the course of many years,” Bugajski said. “I envision that we won’t just spend it all on Lil Wayne. While it would be cool having a second Flunk Day, a decade or so of rolled over activity fee money would go out the window really quick.”
Some of the major policy questions under consideration by the committee include defining for what the money can be used, and determining whether there will be any overlap with the functions already carried out by the Senate Finance Committee.
It is also unclear the extent to which Senate or SMURF plans to publicize these decisions to the student body.
“I’ll try to find as many avenues as I can to actually publicize it,” Bugajski said, “but sometimes it just comes down to the student himself or herself to investigate it.”
SMURF will be holding a meeting sometime this week to further consider specific ideas for use of the fund. It is expected that a final report will be presented to the Senate two weeks before the end of the term.
SMURF committee members include Bugajski, Senate treasurer junior Gordon Barratt, junior senator Sara Jane Ahmed, junior senator Karl Bair, and sophomore senator Dzifa Penty.