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MCSG discusses budget future

The second-to-last meeting of this year’s MCSG Legislative Body took place Tuesday night. The meeting featured discussion on the future of the ice rink and a budget forum with Vice President of Student Affairs Laurie Hamre.

Financial Affairs Committee Chair Kate Hamilton ’13 provided an update on the proposed 2013-14 budget. This is the first year that the budget was assembled annually and under the new block budgeting procedures. Organizations requested approximately $247,000 more than the amount approved by the FAC. All organizations received a 38 percent across-the-board cut in their budgets, a move MCSG expects to free up a greater sum for additional allocations throughout next year and provide leeway to organizations as they switch to annual block budgeting.

The Accuracy of Information Act, proposed by Audrey Kohout ’14, had been discussed at past meetings. Further discussion on the bill was planned for last night’s meeting, but because of time constraints and technical difficulties, it was not brought up. Final debate and a vote will instead happen next week at the last meeting of the year.

The bill, as proposed, would set minimum response rates for MCSG-commissioned surveys that must be achieved, in order to be better representative of student opinion before spending can commence.

The end of the ice rink?

Discussion moved to the future of the ice rink, which received mixed reviews this year after being constructed with MCSG rollover funding. Following the bylaws of the Ice Rink Commission, MCSG Executive Board members will vote at their meeting this Sunday on whether to renew the rink next year.

During discussion, many agreed that the ice rink will not be viable operated as it is now if it is continued next year. Currently, the ice rink is operated by MCSG and maintained by a volunteer crew.

Kai Peterson ’13 spoke in favor of continuing the ice rink but changing the structure of its operation. He noted that the bylaws governing the rink’s maintenance were written before the rink itself was constructed, and he suggested that changing the bylaws could be an attractive option.

“You can look at other avenues of running the ice rink, I think, now that we’ve done it for a year,” Peterson said. “If we vote to continue the ice rink, we get to rethink how it’s managed, and I think that makes a lot of sense.”

Some spoke in favor of continuing the ice rink, saying it could have been more successful with more programming and a better connection to the students that would be using it.

“[The ice rink] could be more successful if there’s better and more programming. We should keep it going at least one more year before they abandon it,” Sarah Vandelist ’15 said.

Samuel Doten ’16 echoed those concerns, saying a system that would allow students to rent ice skates could make it more successful.

Others were concerned, however, with the apparent lack of support around the rink and worried that even if it were renewed, the resources would not exist to ensure its upkeep and maintenance.

“Even though I think we should follow through, and a lot of people enjoyed it, I don’t think it has the support wide enough on campus that it needs,” Hamilton said.

“It depends so heavily on student volunteering, and that was the biggest problem with the ice rink in general,” Rothin Datta ’16 said. “I think it could be a great project, but it depends too much on everyone getting involved. I think we should just cut our losses and put our money into something else that we see more productive.”

Hamilton agreed with a point made by Dean of Students Jim Hoppe that it was difficult to find equipment to use and storage space for the rink materials this year, and it might not be worth jeopardizing relationships by asking those with the space to store equipment for another year.

“We had to call in a lot of favors to get people to let us store hoses in places and to get people to let us use equipment. And I think the fact that the rink is still laying on the side of the field has not exactly helped goodwill among some of the people that were opposed to the ice rink,” Hoppe said. “I think getting those same favors are going to be even more difficult next year.”

Student Affairs cuts forthcoming

Hamre was in attendance for the second half of the meeting, conducting a forum on the Student Affairs budget as a preliminary step to proposing cuts in that office.

Roughly $49,000 will have to be trimmed from the Student Affairs’ budget, approximately a three percent cut. Hamre attended to solicit feedback from MCSG on what they considered essential and would be willing to cut.

The Student Affairs budget covers a breadth of services offered at the school, including convocation, forensics/debate, Student Affairs staff, Campus Center services, Family Fest, Campus Programs, the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, athletics, International Student Programs, the Department of Multicultural Life, the Health and Wellness Center, Campus Life and orientation. According to Hamre, the goal is for the budget cuts to be as unnoticed by students as possible.

The LB offered various suggestions to Hamre for cuts that would not seriously harm student life. Among them were cuts to professional conferences and travel, meals at staff meetings and various perks at campus-wide events.

Others spoke about various portions of the Student Affairs budget that they considered essential and worthy of being shielded from cuts, including ISP and the Health and Wellness Center.

The hearing session with MCSG was the first step to identifying specific cuts. According to Hamre, the suggestions from MCSG will be considered together with suggestions from budget managers in the department at a meeting with the Student Affairs Advisory Committee, which will be held today.

The final Legislative Body meeting will be held next Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in the Weyerhaeuser Boardroom, and next year’s Legislative Body will hold their inaugural meeting the following Tuesday.

April 26, 2013

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