The opinions expressed in this editorial are those shared by the Senate President Sam Claypool, the chairs of the Special Meeting on the Use of the Restricted Fund (SMURF), Treasurer Gordon Barratt and Communications Chair Chris Bugajski, with the support of the entire SMURF committee and the Senate Executive Board.
In the interest of reaching out to campus, and updating the student body as to our thoughts and opinions, we would like to share with you all where the committee is in our decision making process. We are currently approaching the last phases of our mission to determine how to allocate the $100,000 in the restricted fund. For those of you who do not already know, Student Senate was informed from the Vice President of Finance at Knox College, Tom Axtell, that unused student activity fees over the past ten years had accumulated to approximately $100,000 for potential use. Senate created SMURF to figure out how students want this money to be used.
Our first phase was to e-mail out a survey determining the broad categories of projects on which students would like to see this money allocated. The top three categories were recreation (i.e. campus improvements, new student facilities), sustainability, and entertainment (i.e. events/activities), in that order. Recreation was by far the winner, beating the second closest (sustainability) by more than 60 votes.
The second phase was collecting specific ideas. This was achieved through tabling, the creation of a Facebook group, and conducting an impromptu forum. From this, we collected a plethora of ideas. While some were clearly jokes (“give the money to me” was a popular suggestion), there were many great ideas as well. We then compiled a list of all realistic ideas. From this list, the committee filtered out ideas which could be achieved through other channels, such as requests that could be funded by the Senate finance committee (resources for specific clubs) or which could be given as charges to senate committees (Gizmo delivery service, card swipe machines for donating meals, improving the Knox pool). We also took out the ideas which were deemed either too costly, or an inappropriate use of student activity funds (Alumni Hall renovations, constructing new practice rooms in CFA). A lot of these suggestions were important issues, which we understand and want to recognize, even if the fund is not used on them specifically. Therefore, for a lot of these suggestions a separate list was compiled as important issues to notify the college’s administration of, particularly the Dean of Students and Office of Student Development.
One really important issue was voiced by a group of students at the forum and that was the suggestion of obtaining a new counselor in counseling services. There is unanimous sentiment from us that this is a serious problem facing student life and that students deserve more counseling services, which we currently lack. Many of you have probably received a mailing about this issue in your K-Box, which was sent by an anonymous group of concerned students. As a committee, we feel that the lack of counselors on campus is an important issue that needs to be addressed. However, we feel that the pay for such a counselor falls under the jurisdiction of the administration. Even if we decided to spend student money on this project, the amount needed to pay for a full time counselor for one year, plus benefits, would nearly exhaust the account. That being said, the question of SMURF funds being used for this is not totally off the table.
For this reason, a second survey was compiled and sent to the student body this past weekend (Sunday the 13th). On it, we put the nine most highly suggested and supported ideas. The purpose of this survey is to convey to the students the expected cost of each project, and let your feedback determine where and on how many projects you would like to see this money spent. While it is a survey, and thus not entirely protected from misuse (i.e. voting more than once), it will not carry the force of a referendum. That being said, it will be a good way for us to hear your voice.
However, it will not be your last chance to have your voice heard. We would like to invite you to attend our February 24th senate meeting, where the results and possible policy will be debated. Senate meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Round Room of the Center for Fine Arts. At this meeting, we will encourage the student body to voice their opinions and thoughts, so that Senators can make informed decisions.
We hope the length of this statement did not discourage readers from paying attention to it. This is a detailed topic and deserves the most detailed explanation; therefore, we wrote this to insure the dissemination of accurate information. Thank you for reading and we hope to see you on the 24th.