Myth about cultural org budgets and MPIRG from a member of the FAC, Queer Union, & MPIRG

I’ve been fortunate and honored in my time at Macalester to serve in a number of leadership positions in cultural, governing and activist groups. I’m a co-chair of Queer Union, member of the Financial Affairs Committee and a task force leader and board member of MPIRG.

Occupying these many roles has given me expertise about how we spend our student activity fee. I’ve submitted budgets, recommended budget cuts, and audited organizational spending. So I want to debunk one huge myth that has been repeated ad nauseum in The Mac Weekly Opinion section: That MPIRG receives more money than every cultural org combined.

This is not true.

Last spring, MCSG’s Executive Board-elect published an op-ed claiming that MPIRG received more funding than every cultural org combined. This was repeated two weeks ago in an op-ed by my classmate, Elliott Averett. The number the executives and Elliott cited was from the 2012-13 academic year, not the most recent year.

Near the end of academic year ’12-13, MCSG completely reformed how it funded student organizations because of improper allocation of funds. Yup. That problem was solved two years ago. So why bring it up?

Repeating an outdated statistic taken out of context has successfully galvanized concerned cultural org leaders against MPIRG, but it’s a dishonest depiction of how student orgs are funded. MPIRG does not take money away from cultural orgs. If the FAC receives a well-planned budget request, we approve it. If we receive a $10,000 honorarium request for an unidentified speaker without a date in mind, we deny it. Simple as that. But let me be clear: there’s more than enough money to go around for every student organization.

In case you were wondering how much cultural orgs got this year, I have the actual number for you: $47,139 (See: FAC annual budget 2014-2015). This does not include any additional allocations for cultural orgs this year, which will likely exceed $20,000 (As of Tuesday, the FAC and MCSG approved cultural orgs for $9,677. This estimate is made assuming a similar rate of additional allocation submission and approval), putting cultural org funding at about $67,000 total for 2014-15, or more than three times what MPIRG receives, assuming that not a single student opts out of funding MPIRG.

But opponents of funding MPIRG have taken the “less money than MPIRG” meme and run with it. I get it; it’s a convenient, albeit dishonest, way to pit supporters of cultural orgs against MPIRG. But as a co-chair of one of the largest and most active cultural orgs on campus, Queer Union, I firmly disagree with this deceptive tactic. When we are discussing whether or not to keep MPIRG on campus, we must commit to facts to inform our opinions. We can’t lose sight that we are deciding the future of fellow students who deserve nothing less than factual accuracy.

As a cultural org leader, I can confidently say that the work MPIRG does complements and enhances queer life at Macalester. In no way, shape or form does it detract from Queer Union’s mission or ability to fund its programs, nor the programs of any other cultural org. Quite frankly, QU isn’t an activism-oriented organization. We are a cultural organization, so our priority isn’t building long-term strategic campaigns. But MPIRG collaborated with stakeholders to get several new all-gender bathrooms this year, something QU members have expressed a want and need for.

As I dash between Campus Center conference rooms from board meetings to committees, never have I felt like I had to put away one of my roles in order to faithfully execute another. My positions in QU, the FAC and MPIRG have been a complementing, synergistic experience. I love supporting the work of my fellow students and cultural org leaders. Advocating on issues integral to my identity is empowering and invigorating. I’d like to keep that going.

I’m incredibly grateful for the trust my peers have put in me to serve in these positions. I hope you’ll support the work of your fellow students and vote yes on the MPIRG referendum.