University News

Funds stall for student activities

Funding for student groups tightens as UFB focuses on financial aid expansion

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The student activities endowment, a fund that has historically been a priority for the Undergraduate Finance Board and Undergraduate Council of Students, has recently been eclipsed by student interest in expanding financial aid.

“It’s been really hard because there’s been a big push for financial aid and that’s where a lot of the fundraising is going,” said Zak Fischer ’13, UFB chair.

“We’ve definitely tried to make (the endowment) a priority, but I don’t think I would want to push financial aid out of the way,” Fischer said. “We’re here to represent the student body, and that seems to be what they want first.”

The student activities endowment — a pool of money intended to fund student activities, groups and events — contained about $1.3 million at the end of the last fiscal year, but should ideally reach $21 million to be sustainable, said Daniel Pipkin ’14, UFB Vice Chair.

The endowment swelled in 2009, when then-President Ruth Simmons donated $100,000, and again in 2011 when Chancellor Emeritus Stephen Robert ’62 P’91 pledged an additional $1 million. But the endowment’s growth has stalled since then, The Herald previously reported. The endowment made only meager progress from investment gains last year, Fischer said.

The yearly budget for UFB, which funds student groups and activities, is determined based on funds received from the Student Activities Fee. Student Activities Chair Alexander Kaplan ’14 said he expects the University Resources Committee to recommend a $36 increase to the current $214 fee — which all undergraduates pay as part of tuition — in two weeks.

If it reached its goal, the endowment would eventually eliminate the activities fee, The Herald previously reported.

“It’s tough to take money out of one basket and put it in another,” Kaplan said. “At the moment, financial aid is definitely a top priority. Hopefully moving forward, the student activities fund will become one in the coming years,” he said.

Kaplan said he thinks student activities should be a priority for student government because they “give color and vibrancy to student life” and create a heightened sense of community. For example, Brown Concert Agency’s planning of Spring Weekend energizes Brown’s entire campus, he said.

“BCA could do with a little more money,” said Emma Ramadan ’13, BCA booking chair. “We get adequate funding … but it’s never enough to give Brown students what they really want.”

BCA usually receives 25 percent of the student activities budget, “but it’s really not that much compared to how much artists cost,” Ramadan said. BCA received $180,000 for Spring Weekend, but Brown students requested artists such as David Guetta and Taylor Swift, who cost upwards of $250,000 and $500,000 respectively, she said.

Leaders of student cultural groups said they suffer from scarce finances — in particular from a lack of funding for food.

The Latin American Student Association strained its budget in order to have Latino Senior Night catered last spring, said Kendra Cornejo ’15, president of LASO. “I would very much appreciate if UFB gave funding for food, because then we could provide the seniors with this nice send-off without having to make such a sacrifice,” Cornejo said.

The Vietnamese Students’ Association, which has struggled to promote a strong presence on campus, attracted two or three times as many members this year by advertising spring rolls at its first general body meeting, said Alexander Tran ’14, co-president of VSA. “It’s a common, ongoing complaint we don’t get funding for food,” Tran said.

Pipkin said while the student activities endowment is currently eclipsed by financial aid, looking forward, UFB will discuss funding food for cultural groups as a future initiative. “It is my sincerest hope that UFB will be able to fund food,” he said.

In the immediate future, increasing the student activities fee could be a means to pay for food at cultural events, Fischer said.