Last week, Matt Manes had a column published in this newspaper that explained how to make college less affordable for everyone at the University of Wisconsin by raising segregated fees. Mr. Manes has experience in the practice, having secured over $95,000 for his newly established student organization, the Medieval Warriorcraft League. While he could have pursued the route that I (and many others) have — to get involved in student government and work toward reforming the way student organizations are funded on campus — he instead chose to abuse students’ trust and their wallets. A former Student Services Finance Committee chair, Matt Manes put in almost a year of long meetings, stressful decisions and never-ending emails, all in the name of student power over segregated fees. As the person in the position Mr. Manes once held, I have a hard time understanding how someone who has done the work I have could so blatantly disregard the true purpose of the General Student Services Fund. The SSFC chair works himself or herself half to death in an effort to keep segregated fees reasonable and ensure services are provided to campus. Has he completely forgotten what he claimed to be working for two years ago? Apparently so.
The funding of student organizations at UW is flawed, that is for certain. This year, SSFC and the Finance Committee are working together to propose reforms that would allow our student government to more effectively and equitably allocate funding to the many student organizations that engineer events, programming and advocacy on this campus. We have spent the year noting areas of concern, tightening our budgeting procedures and researching different frameworks for funding. What we have not done is create a student organization to waste nearly $100,000 just to make a point. We have not chosen to abuse the system. We have not extracted $95,000 in segregated fees for something we know students do not wish to pay for.
As Mr. Manes noted in his column, viewpoint neutrality necessitates that Medieval Warriorcraft League be afforded the same opportunity for funding as a more widely-accepted student organization and SSFC abided by its criteria, granting eligibility and funding to Mr. Manes’s organization. Congratulations, Matt! You have proven you can work the system. On top of that, you are encouraging others to waste student money to highlight the flaws of our funding process. How will we ever be able thank you?
To be clear, those of us on the Student Services Finance Committee agree with Mr. Manes: The way student organizations secure funding on this campus is complicated and inefficient and it frequently results in money being allocated, but not spent. It needs to be fixed. However, we reject the notion that the best way to bring about change is to inflate the funding stream and make a show of the problem. Instead, those of us on SSFC will be proposing changes under the current constitution of Associated Students of Madison to Student Council in the coming two weeks.
If you like what we’ve come up with, show your support. Please do not abuse the system just because you can, and please do not aid Mr. Manes in his crusade to raise segregated fees to unaffordable levels. Something needs to change, we agree. But like Dale Harding says to Charlie Cheswick in the 1975 Academy Award-winning film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” do us a favor, Mr. Manes, and stay off our side.
Ellie Bruecker ([email protected]) is the chair of SSFC.