URC considers budget, student activities fee

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Complaints about funding for student activities dominated last Monday night’s open forum of the University Resources Committee.

The URC, comprised of students, faculty and staff, advises the president and the Corporation on the University’s annual budget. The open forum, held in Salomon 001, was the URC’s second of the semester and lasted less than a half hour.

Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98, who chairs the URC, led the forum, which was attended by about 20 people. The limited turnout may have been due to a concurrent University meeting, the Task Force on Undergraduate Education’s forum, featuring Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron and President Ruth Simmons.

Graham Anderson ’10, the first speaker, argued that student activities should receive University funding beyond the student activities fee, citing the recent cut of the Critical Review’s print run due to the budgeting constraints of the activities fee. The student activities fee, paid by all undergraduates, makes up the budget for the Undergraduate Finance Board, which then distributes funds to student groups.

Kertzer responded to Anderson’s concerns by saying the University has implemented some changes intended to increase the funding available to student groups, such as removing club sports from UFB’s responsibilities.

Clay Wertheimer ’10, an at-large member of the Undergraduate Council of Students, also replied to Anderson’s concerns, saying that though UCS has supported an increase in the student activities fee to allow greater funding for activities, it also supports finding other avenues of funding. “We want to explore other options, such as creating an endowment,” Wertheimer said. He said UFB currently funds the heritage and cultural month programs of the Third World Center, an example of something that could be supported by other means than UFB.

Arik Beatty ’10 suggested that the University invest in a better lighting system for Alumnae Hall, saying that Brown University Gilbert & Sullivan had to spend $1,100 on basic lighting for its recent production of “The Yeomen of the Guard.” “Attempting to light (the actors) just so they could be seen was a challenge in and of itself,” Beatty said. He said a one-time investment in a better lighting system would decrease ongoing costs to student groups and therefore decrease the amount theater groups would require from UFB.

Professor of Classics Deborah Boedeker then voiced concerns about decreasing funding for scholarly journal subscriptions. She said departments were asked to identify 10 percent of their journal subscriptions that could be canceled.

“We’re very concerned with the idea that we have to do without some of the resources we’ve been accustomed to,” she said, calling this a “hardship” for her department, which depends heavily on access to scholarship.

Kertzer responded that the task of looking at subscriptions is “the responsible thing to do,” given that some departments may subscribe to journals they do not use, but that the University should make sure departments have the resources they need.

Adam Merberg ’08 ended the meeting by raising concerns about the overheating of University buildings. He said David Greene, former vice president for campus life and student services, wrote an e-mail to the Brown community in October 2005 saying that Brown buildings would be kept at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Merberg said he has been carrying a thermometer with him and has found rooms as warm as 85 degrees. He said the current response – calling Facilities Management to complain about the heat – is ineffective and that there must be a “serious policy-based approach,” adding that high temperatures are “unhealthy, uncomfortable” and environmentally irresponsible.

“I agree there’s a problem,” said Elizabeth Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration and a URC member. “I think our biggest problem is the age of our buildings. It’s not quite as simple as, ‘Oh, let’s turn down the thermostat,’ ” she added, citing University Hall as an example of a building that is often difficult to heat consistently because of its age. The University is investing $20 million over five years to improve building maintenance and temperature control, she said.

Kertzer suggested that students could “patrol” buildings and report overheated buildings to Facilities Management whenever they encounter them.

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