A call for CS40 budget transparency

On Tuesday night, the Congress of the South Forty proposed its budget for the upcoming year. CS40 brings laudable programming to the South Forty every semester, however, as students, we must weigh the benefits of activities we pay for against their costs. This is not a binary issue: there is no question that CS40 greatly augments the college experience of those who live on the 40. However, we ought to consider whether the Congress of the South 40’s activities really justify the tremendous cost to students.

A quick review of last year’s approved budget shows that the CS40 collected approximately $422,700 in income and incurred expenses totalling $421,440. That’s a lot of money, plain and simple. But where does it all go?

Consider Student Union, the governing body of the entire undergraduate community, with a budget of roughly $2.4 million. With this money, SU is expected to fund numerous activities and student groups. The largest campus activities, such as W.I.L.D., draw their funds directly from SU. In short, the student government has an enormous fiduciary responsibility to the campus community. We entrust them to manage such significant resources with the understanding that they provide detailed breakdowns of where the money goes.

This is not entirely the case with the Congress of the South 40. Like SU, CS40 represents a large contingent of students and manages a prodigious amount of money. However, CS40 has much less accountability, and at times, its spending seems to be superfluous beyond its mission. CS40’s mission statement asserts that it “…strive[s] to improve the lives of residents by providing a variety of ways for them to participate in their residential areas, play a leadership role on campus and get involved in the Wash. U. and St. Louis communities.” We are concerned that some of its expenses are excessive for the fulfillment of this worthy goal.

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CS40’s budget for fiscal year 2010 includes significant perks for the five executive officers. Last year, each officer was paid a salary (as it’s called in the official budget) of $7,656.00—the yearly cost of a double room on the 40. These officers effectively get free housing or, should they wish to have a modern single room, significantly subsidized housing.

In addition, the budget contained $14,200.00 for a retreat, a worthwhile activity, but one that far exceeds the cost of a similar SU retreat, which is expected to cost $5,000 next year. There was also a “Business Manager” salary (for someone different from the group’s adviser) that cost another $22,836.00. The aforementioned totals $75,316. For a group led by five underclassmen and one adviser, spending 17.82 percent of the predominately student-funded budget on its leadership seems both excessive and out of line with its initial mission statement.

Other line items on the budget are simply too vague considering the sums of money being used on their behalf. For instance, a $14,000 lump sum for the “Finance Committee” seems excessive without a breakdown of where all of this money goes. To us, CS40’s budget seems opaque at best.

Perhaps most significantly, CS40’s allocated budget is determined not by its needs as a student group, but by the cost of housing. Rather than pay a flat fee every year, the amount students give to CS40 is calculated as a percentage of students’ room and board. We believe it may be time to reconsider this method. At the very least, CS40 must do a better job of justifying its continually-increasing revenue.

In its defense, the CS40 puts on a lot of good programming. WUStock and South 40 Week are great events. The Residential College Olympics attracts numerous Forty-dwellers to the swamp for merriment, food and friendly competition. Funding the various events of each residential college is essential to fostering close relationships amongst students in groups of dorms. Clearly, the problem is not that CS40 is doing a bad job with its programming.

The real issues that need to be considered are why CS40 has as much money as it does, why such a large portion seems to benefit only select members of the CS40 executive board, and why CS40’s financial reporting is not as detailed as that of other governing student bodies. For all of the money Wash. U. students have paid to the Congress of the South 40, its members owe it to the students to show that their funds are being used as well as they possibly can be used.

  • really?

    I think this issue goes beyond the fact that the execs get paid. Sure, full housing compensation may be a bit excessive, but I think studlife makes other valid points in this article that relate to how CS40 spends it’s money. There is no clear direction or communication of how their budget, which is their resident’s money, is being spent.
    Sure, some make the argument a retreat is necessary but really at what point is it too much money that only cs40 members are benefiting from.
    What else is their money being spent on that’s unnecessary and self-serving?

  • Kevin L.

    CS40 executives are Reslife employees. That’s the difference. Student Union execs are not covered by Reslife and thus don’t have to adhere to their policies. Residential life insists that all jobs with office hours are paid.

  • south 40 resident

    It is untrue that having office hours requires payment. Student Union executive members have 8 office hours, vs. CS40 executive members 6 office hours, yet SU execs are not paid.

    I agree that CS40 members do a tremendous amount of work, and make a huge impact on the Freshman and Sophomore experience.

    However, the precedent has been set at WashU in every other major student government or student group position, that this does not warrant monetary incentives.

    The reason RA’s, tutors and all other student positions receive monetary incentives is because they are doing jobs that would not be completed without monetary incentives.

    If enough Juniors and Seniors wanted to live on Freshman floors and serve as RA’s without receiving housing payment, then the school shouldn’t pay them.

    I don’t understand the reason to pay for CS40 executive members housing. What is that $35,000 getting the student body that it wouldn’t get otherwise?

    There are enough motivated students at WashU where such an incentive is unnecessary and inappropriate for student government.

  • Antonio

    We have meetings every Tuesday at 10pm in Mudd Multipurpose.

    I would encourage this reputable newspaper to attend one.

  • Fred

    I heard Thurtene gives about $20 to charity. Please look into this.

  • Antonio

    Where has StudLife been all semester?

    We have meetings every tuesday at 10pm.

    They should try going to one!

  • Kevin L.

    Reslife requires that they be paid. It’s their rules not ours. Any student with office hours has to be paid. This includes STS, Residential Peer Mentors, etc. You can suggest we also stop paying for those positions too if you want.

  • no

    please tell me how they are “required” to be paid. SU execs are not required to be paid. They seem pretty willing to do that much and probably more unpaid work.

  • Kevin L.

    disclaimer: I am an incoming CS40 chair, but I will not be paid.

    There are actually two CS40 retreats- one to train new execs and chairs and another for the college councils once they are elected. You also actually have a lot more participants than in the SU retreat, since college councils are typically around 12-14 members (President, VP, treasurer, public relations, 4 assembly reps, 4-6 college council reps).

    The 14,000 budget is well-known to be for finance requests. CS40 doesn’t know where this money will go until groups come to us for appeals. This flexibility is actually a strong-suit; many groups have last minute funding issues that SU’s structure isn’t good for dealing with.

    The executives are required to be paid just like an RPM or STS technician. They hold office hours. Besides, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to do that much unpaid work.

  • cs40 member

    “no”: constituency is different from membership–CS40 serves all residents on the south40 (about 3000 people) but only between 175 and 200 are officially elected members of CS40. This is much the same way as SU, which represents the 6000 undergraduate students but only has about 100 elected members (exec board, treasury, senate–in the SU constitution only students elected to these positions are considered members of SU; all other students are constituents.) You claim that the CS40 retreat isn’t open to all member, but it is. It might not necessarily be open to all 3000 residents, but all 200 elected officers (college council members, cs40 chairs, and cs40 execs) are invited and strongly encouraged to attend. This is a two-day event that allows college council members to bond with each other, become more familiar with their positions, grow as teams, and get a jump start on programming. Also, a majority of the retreat budget is spent on transportation and lodging at Camp Wyman (where many groups-WashU and others- have retreats).

    As for the advisor and her salary: OSA advisors may not be paid by student groups by they’re being paid by OSA. The CS40 advisor is actually an employee of ResLife, with many other related ResLife duties. Because the advsior spends so much time outside of ResLife-specific duties, CS40 pays half of her salary and ResLife the other half. This is exactly the same as faculty members who teach in two different departments on campus: their salaries are split between the department. This is only fair. Its the exact same with the CS40 business manager who is also a ResLife accountant but spends so much of her time working on CS40-related finances (making sure that bills are paid, paperwork is filed, receipts properly handled, etc).

    Also, minutes for general-body Assembly meetings can be found on the website (cs40.wustl.edu) under the “assembly” tab. Each date links to that day’s minutes. In these minutes can be found the exact breakdown of what programming has occured during the year and how money from the Finance Committee has been allocated.

  • Jill

    $421,440?
    Really?

    Is this a mandatory fee?
    Why do they get paid?
    What do they do?
    Why does their advisor get paid? No one is OSA gets paid to advise student groups…. hm *smh*

  • no

    Sorry zac, the CS40 retreat is not for every member of CS40 (ie the constituents). Pretty sure I couldn’t go on it for either of the past two years. It’s for people who hold offices within CS40.

    That retreat is pricer than the SU one, and I’m pretty sure the SU one is for a larger amount of people.

    Also contrary to what you believe, having open meetings does not make the budget transparent. transparency means showing all the expenses, not listing things as lump sums. When groups are allocated funds, you should be able to see that. I see NO place on the cs40 website where minutes from any meetings can be obtained. Not on the new website, and most definitely not on the old one.

  • anonymous

    As an involved member of CS40 (but not an exec), I find this editorial to be misleading and even offensive. As Zac mentioned, the CS40 budget assembly was open to all members of the 40, yet (as far as I could tell) no outside members attended. If the residents of the 40 are so concerned about the organization’s budget (which they have every right to be) then they should have come to the assembly instead of writing an editorial complaining about the lack of transparency in the budget.

    Just to clear up some of the statements in the article:

    *Although I agree that the “salary” is a little extreme, it is important to remember that execs often spend 20 or more hours a week working on CS40.

    *The money alloted to the finance board is given out in the form of finance requests (I will admit that the explanation for the money was a little poor in the budget). Student groups come to CS40 and ask for money for events and we vote on the merits of the event. For example, we funded WUslam when they brought in a world-renown poet and EST when they weren’t given enough money to fix their truck.

    *The retreat, as mentioned before, is actually two- an exec retreat at the beginning of the year to plan involvement during orientation and first 40, and a retreat for all CS40 members.

    *The business manager is an intern who works with CS40, as well as fulfilling other tasks in reslife.

    All of these facts are well-known, and if someone had taken the time to ask a CS40 member or even to come to assembly, they could have found this out.

    I encourage everyone to attend the second half of the budget assembly, this Tuesday from 10-11 pm in Mudd Multi-Purpose Room.

    P.S. I find the comparison to Team31 a bit confusing, because they are well-known for not giving answers and mismanaging their budget (see: Spring WILD 2010).

  • Zac

    This article contains many factual errors about CS40. First, the retreat is not just for the officers, but for every member of CS40. This allows not just for better south forty wide programming but better programming at the residential college level as well.
    Also, funny you should include WILD, since CS40 helped subsidize Fall WILD this year. That money came from the finances that CS40 votes to give different groups that come requesting aid. The reason there is no breakdown of where that money goes is because any group can request it and then it is voted on by all members of CS40.
    Also, in terms of the budget not being transparent, the CS40 budget assembly is open to every member who lives on the forty, with a week in between the showing of the budget and the voting on it, allowing people time to consider what they approve or disapprove of in the budget.
    Congratulations on an editorial full of shoddy reporting and half-truths. Maybe next year you should request money from CS40 for an intro to reporting tutorial for your writers.