Senate, Treasury should vote not to fund $300K request from Campus Life

On Tuesday night, Executive Director of Campus Life Leslie Heusted and Associate Vice Chancellor for Students Rob Wild presented in front of a joint session of Senate and Treasury. The two asked the legislative bodies to vote to give $300,000 of Student Union’s savings to Washington University to help fund the litany of moves and consolidations happening in the Danforth University Center this summer. The University administrators claim the money will go towards funding the furniture, light fixtures and aesthetic choices of Student Union’s new office on the second floor of the DUC.

Our editorial board recommends that Senate and Treasury vote not to fund the request due to a gross lack of specific information from the University on what the money would be used for, it being a misuse of the student activities fee and for its likelihood to set a bad precedent.

The University is asking Student Union to fund the project with money sitting in their savings account, which currently holds $369,858.75. Each fiscal year, unused money from the SU budget gets put into what is called the “carry-forward” account. If that money is not spent within the next year, it gets pushed into the savings account, which is essentially SU’s “rainy day” fund left to be used in emergency situations.

Not only were Heusted and Wild unable to provide specific details during their presentation, but they were also inexcusably unprepared to answer questions with regards to funding and space posed by members of the two groups. When asked about how funding for the entire project was being allocated, Wild said he “forgot his notes.” When asked about the square footage of the new office and how the move—and optimal amount of space for SU—was configured, Heusted said she hadn’t “done all the math.” At the end of the day, they’re forcing Student Union to move and to finance the move while dodging any attempts to question the validity of the decision.

No one seems to know how the $300,000 number was conjured up, and the look of confusion on the representatives’ faces during the presentation made it clear that no one could explain it either.

The money the administration is asking for comes directly from an accumulation of past students’ activity fees. It’s what provides Student Union the money to fund everything it does from Social Programming Board’s WILD to the over 380 SU-recognized student groups. Student Union is in no dire need for new furniture, especially $300,000 worth of it, when its current set-up could easily be moved upstairs. Using the student activities fee to satiate the administration’s aesthetic desires is not what that money was intended to be used for. Draining roughly 80 percent of SU’s emergency fund would not only put them in a precarious position, but would also contradict SU’s own commitment to spend the student activities fee in ways that benefit as many students as possible.

At this point in the process, the University has made it clear that the move is happening no matter what. As useless and counterintuitive as it may seem to have administrators’—instead of student representatives’—offices on the first floor of the major hub of undergraduate activity, the move is going to happen. But SU and students don’t deserve to suffer more consequences at the hands of condescending, manipulative administrators who used unsubstantiated “feedback” from past representatives to push forward their agenda. During the session, they admitted to knowing the size of the savings account when starting their conversation and shrugged off or deflected legitimate questions posed by representatives.

Asking for $300,000 is no small request. Asking for $300,000 of student’s money to pay for a University-launched renovation is ridiculous. Asking for $300,000 without putting in the due diligence or treating student representatives with respect is unprofessional. The administration is going to find the money to fund Student Union’s move no matter how the bodies vote. It’s in their best interest to do so, but they don’t need—or deserve—our money to do it.

  • Mike Minter

    It’s amusing to think of the so called “editorial board” behind this misguided recommendation. You’re a bunch of college students and you know virtually nothing about large construction projects like this, or real life for that matter. Your youth, inexperience and naivety is evident among the words you put together here. Stop poking around where you don’t belong. This improvement transcends your brief visit here on campus.

    The professional staff members who work in those offices every day were here long before you arrived and will be here long after you are gone and forgotten. They work hard for lower wages so the university can afford the finest faculty to educate you. They deserve a nice place to work. You’ll understand that after you’ve had a real job in the same place for 20 or 30 years.

    You suggest that they don’t deserve the money because they haven’t treated student student representatives with respect. In Fact, respecting students is all they do…all day long. They are there to serve you and to improve the quality of your experience at Washington University. How about showing them a little respect and gratitude instead?

    • Shilpi Sharma

      Well, Mr. Minter, if the administration is asking STUDENTS for money, do they not seem like the naive ones? How could these administrators, with all their knowledge and experience, possibly need our help? Shouldn’t they know how to properly manage a budget? Also note that Treasury has been unable to fund many other student groups, such as the Association of Latin American Students for their 25th anniversary, the Muslim Students Association for the full amount for their senior dinner, and Ashoka to bring a speaker to campus.
      The editorial board is not suggesting that workers do not deserve nicer work spaces, given that the construction project is happening regardless of Treasury’s decision. Rather I read this article as a criticism that student activity funds will go to a project that is simply not in that category.