Chair Matt Manes introduces SSFC
The past few years the Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group has applied for Student Services Finance Committee funding, it has fought an uphill battle, and won. This time, instead of being scrutinized based on political viewpoint or time allocations towards direct services to students, WISPIRG was attacked by SSFC for having “…over a million beneficiaries [for one of WISPIRG's campaigns] when the max number of people here at Madison is 56,000.”
The existing criteria to receive University of Wisconsin funding from segregated fees states that 75 percent of the benefits from the organization must be UW students. This number is completely arbitrary. At what point can an organization claim three quarters of the benefits they create go directly towards students? Intuitively, this seems impossible to prove, and even less practical to advocate for.
Some groups on campus exist to serve more than the student population. PAVE, another student organization funded by segregated fees, has a mission of preventing sexual violence and assault. This goal does not merely apply to UW or to the city of Madison, but to everyone at risk of sexual assault. How can – or why would – PAVE prove that their programs are only benefiting UW students? If PAVE has influenced a UW student’s outlook regarding sexual assault in a positive way, has not everyone in society benefited?
SSFC’s decision to reject WISPIRG is contradictory. This can most clearly be seen with their acceptance of funding Wisconsin Student Lobby. WSL supports students’ political agendas through lobbying our elected representatives. Exactly like WISPIRG, the students who participate in WSL can quite plausibly benefit all of Wisconsin by persuading legislators on specific policy initiatives supported by individual students. This would presumably affect many more citizens than the UW student body. It appears that SSFC has denied WISPIRG funding based some other reason than how many people will “benefit” from their endeavors.
SSFC’s existing criterion limits the influence our student organizations can have. Students who join PAVE, WSL or WISPIRG do not join merely for their own benefits or for the benefit of the UW student body. They participate in student organizations to create a better world. If society benefits for what a group does, shouldn’t that be revered? I believe that neither the university nor our students want to limit the power of our student organizations. If we are going to sacrifice a portion of our tuition every semester towards funding organizations, don’t we wish for them to strive for excellence? Does the university not want its students to impact society?
SSFC’s criterion for segregated fees is flawed and ridiculous. It essentially punishes groups for doing too much good. Let us hope that it is righted to allow these groups to continue to affect positive change beyond campus.
Scott Rubin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in political science.