Student lounge popcorn may stop popping before finals

By Matea Wasend

A cup of oil-popped popcorn has about 60 calories. But even though it has limited nutritional value, the question of whether to provide popcorn for free with student activity funds has consumed the attention of student government. The student lounge’s popcorn machine was empty last week after the popcorn ran out. MCSG allocated $3,000 towards popcorn at the beginning of the school year, but that money had already been spent and the popcorn eaten by the end of February. Facing the prospect of three popcorn-less months (and after receiving numerous unhappy emails, letters and in-person complaints from hungry students), Campus Lounge Coordinator Alison Goodrum ’14 sought the assistance of MCSG. After some debate, MCSG moved to refill the popcorn machine, allocating $660 in additional funds for the remainder of the semester. Given the recent rate of consumption, that should put the lounge’s next popcorn expiration date somewhere around mid-April, Goodrum said. $660 will buy two pallets of popcorn, and each pallet generally lasts two or three weeks. The lounge might address the projected deficit by limiting free-popcorn hours, perhaps only popping the snack between 3 and 8 p.m., said Goodrum. “The student lounge has been a lot more popular this year than in past years,” Goodrum said, by way of explaining the popcorn deficit. “The [popcorn] budget was the same amount we were given last year, but because of the popularity of the lounge we are running over.” On top of what Goodrum estimated to be about 50-100 students who take advantage of the free popcorn every day, the lounge’s increased use as a programming space this semester “could account for some of the increase in consumption,” Dean of Students Jim Hoppe wrote in an email. The long-term solution to the popcorn shortage will likely be to ask MCSG for a bigger allocation next year. But the funding is far from guaranteed. At the February 28 MCSG meeting, members were conflicted about whether to pay for more popcorn for the semester, as well as whether to continue footing the bill for the free snack at all in future. Some members opposed granting more popcorn money for this semester, expressing reservations about doling out money that is typically reserved for last-minute allocations to student orgs. “April is a super busy month for additional allocations from orgs and I believe limiting the amount of money that could very recently be thought of as available for orgs at this specific time is not fair,” Program Board Chair Audrey Kohout ’14 wrote in an email. “Popcorn was thought to be one annual payment, whereas orgs are encouraged to make requests all year long.” While MCSG eventually opted to sponsor more popcorn despite such reservations, the February 28 meeting brought up the larger question of whether MCSG money, which comes from the student activity fee, should be put towards free popcorn at all. “I think division came out [from] some people feeling that having popcorn available for students…is a legitimate use of activity fee if it’s being used and if students like it,” MCSG Vice President Jesse Horwitz ’13 said. “Others felt that having programming on campus and allowing people to bring speakers to campus was a better use of the money.” The popcorn debate centered on the question of what student activity fee money is best used for. Kohout, who supports funding the snack with a one-time annual sum, said that free popcorn is an opportunity for students to see direct returns from their student activity fee money. “I think [popcorn] plays a role on campus because it is one of the easiest ways for students not in orgs and not particularly prone to going to campus events to consume their student activity fee money,” Kohout wrote in an email. “I think that popcorn and the [MCSG-funded] New York Times [subscription] are important ways for all students to get the most from their student activity fee money.” Srader disagreed. “I just want us to provide services that are more meaningful than popcorn,” he said at the February 28 meeting. The debate was ultimately tabled. It will be taken up again next fall, when MCSG will allocate money for the 2012-13 school year. “It comes down to a question of priorities, and does this request for resources outweigh other requests for the same dollars,” said Dean of Students Jim Hoppe. “I’m sure there will be a very good discussion.” Goodrum urged those students who often take advantage of the no-charge snack to voice their opinion to MCSG. “People should call or email the reps to let them know that they should fund popcorn,” Goodrum said. “We need student representation to make sure popcorn is available all year round.” Popcorn is a new expense for MCSG, which agreed to fund the snack after the Campus Center took over management of the student lounge in Spring 2011. The lounge was previously supervised (and the popcorn paid for) by Campus Programs. “This is student government picking up a cost that other people didn’t want to pay anymore,” said Mac McCreary ’12. “We’ll be viewed as the bad guys if we take popcorn away, but…” “…we’re the only ones left holding the bag,” Horwitz said. refresh –>