From Friday September 10 to Saturday September 11, I had the privilege of attending a wonderful retreat put on by the Associated Students of the Colorado School of Mines (ASCSM). We drove to beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado, spending almost 24 hours framing the direction for ASCSM this year. This retreat was meant to serve as a team-building and planning opportunity, a purpose that I believe it served admirably. The concerning piece of this trip is that it was funded entirely by a school fee.
I should mention that I am a voting member of the ASCSM Senate, hence my attendance at this retreat, so I, too, should take to heart the criticisms that follow.
Every student pays $83.70 each semester for the Associated Students Fee. The money from this fee is distributed each year by the ASCSM Budget Committee. Approximately $700,000 is parceled out amongst the nearly 150 different clubs on campus. The actual allocations are posted outside the ASCSM office, in the back of the Student Activities office, if you are curious.
The allocations process is a source of heartache for perhaps as many as 500 students each semester, as they try to secure funding for their club to be able to do all the activities they would like to do. There are many complaints that can be and are leveled at the budget allocation process. I would rather leave those for another time and instead aim my criticism at ASCSM as a whole.
My concern is that ASCSM takes the stance that the money gathered through the Associated Students fee belongs to ASCSM. ASCSM does distribute all but perhaps $32,000 to the other clubs on campus, but the rules that govern club usage of money do not seem to apply to ASCSM.
In an effort to remove the veil from the budget allocation process, the ASCSM Budget Committee did try to codify the circumstances under which they would fund organizations. This spring, the rules were that ASCSM would pay for half of all conference and competition costs. Food costs would only be reimbursed if the food was provided at a well-publicized event open to the entire campus. Those two rules constituted most of the funding cuts that ASCSM issued last year.
What qualifies as a conference, then? Could we not count the ASCSM retreat as a conference? We traveled somewhere to listen to people talk and make sure that we were working towards the long term aims of the organization. Sure, we did not have the chance to meet with others interested in our area of work, but does that additional experience really warrant a budget cut? What about the food purchased during this retreat? The retreat was not open to all of campus.
Granted, ASCSM did add a retreat exemption to their food dictate. The exemption was used to the benefit of one club and ASCSM, if memory serves. Others called their event a “club meeting” instead of a “leadership bonding experience,” and had that funding cut entirely.
On the topic of free food, each class generally puts on one or two free food events each year. These events are not open to all of campus, 1/4 at best, and some are not well publicized. Yet they are funded without a second thought.
ASCSM gave itself money to subsidize the purchase of Stetsons by the Senior Class. All the other organizations on campus would be told that purchases must stay with the club; money cannot be used for personal purchases. Yes, Senior Stetson is a tradition, one in which I intend to partake; does that make it different? If the Judo Club established a tradition such as this, should they also be funded?
Another idea that has been broached which bothers me is that ASCSM wants to provide T-shirts for all of the current Senate and Executive Council members, free of charge. Many club presidents and treasurers may recognize this as something that they were expressly forbidden to do. It is my understanding that the rule regarding T-shirts is not actually an ASCSM rule, but a rule put in place by some other part of the school administration. However, if ASCSM is able to get around this rule, will they be assisting all the clubs in the same end-run?
The question to which all of these concerns naturally lead is “What makes ASCSM different?” What is the difference between all students in congress and some students in congress? This is a question that ASCSM should ask itself, but every student should ask themselves the same question. How do we logically continue subsidizing great traditions such as Senior Stetson, while still supporting and encouraging the clubs that help to make the school great?