On Zabumba and the budgeting process

In response to last week’s staff editorial regarding MCSG’s drastic cuts to The Mac Weekly’s budget, we at Zabumba feel compelled to add our voice to the cross-campus call for a more responsive and respectful org budgeting process.
Zabumba, like many orgs on campus, faced significant budget cuts for unclear reasons. Thankfully, the needed funding (e.g. earplugs for our members) was restored during the appeals process. Through the appeals process, we were also able to recover funding for a stipend for a visiting instructor from a local samba band, a project that is vital to both Zabumba’s continued survival and our ability to engage with the larger Twin Cities percussion community.

While our most essential funding was restored, we were upset to learn that The Mac Weekly was at risk of losing so much in the appeals process. We understand that funds are not unlimited, but our interactions with the budgeting process this year have made it clear that the process is opaque, inefficient and needlessly bureaucratic. We know that when MCSG diverts org funding, it is to fund other programs like subsidizing textbooks and laundry, and we fully endorse these priorities. Our contention is not with MCSG’s responsibility to balance the budget, but rather the spirit in which budget negotiations are conducted.

We want to see MCSG, and more specifically the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC), carry out its duties in a spirit of community and empowerment, rather than one of opaque bureaucracy. In the editorial, the staff wrote that “MCSG’s petty bureaucracy is not more important than the sum total of Mac’s many orgs.” At Zabumba, we believe that the spirit of Macalester is found in its diverse orgs and the students who devote countless hours to planning events, realizing projects and building beautiful communities on campus and throughout the Twin Cities. MCSG’s role should be to support and empower these orgs, rather than to withhold their funding as an exercise in politicking. If there are insufficient funds, MCSG should work with orgs to find alternative funding sources or free or low-cost resources. Rather than punishing The Mac Weekly or other organizations for imperfect uses of Checkbook, the FAC should work as our allies in securing funding and navigating the budgeting process.

Every time we see an organization as respected and indispensable as The Mac Weekly face budget cuts, we fear for our own org’s survival. Zabumba does not pretend to be as critical to the functioning of Macalester as The Mac Weekly, but we do contribute in our own way to the vitality of the Macalester community. We have been asked to play at Springfest, the Empty Bowls Fundraiser and an Art Department Event, in addition to the Afrika!, Adelante and BLAC showcases. A good reputation in the Macalester community, however, appears to have no bearing on an org’s ability to receive adequate funding, as we now know from The Mac Weekly’s staff editorial.

We stand with The Mac Weekly in demanding a more responsive Financial Affairs Committee. The Mac Weekly deserves to have its full budget request met, and many other orgs on campus also deserve much higher budgets than they were granted. More importantly, all orgs deserve an FAC that acts as an ally rather than as an obstacle. We do not object to budget cuts; we object to a process that emphasizes bureaucratic compliance over community solidarity and mutual support. Macalester wouldn’t be the wonderful community it is without all its orgs, from Adelante to Zabumba.