Chairs of the University of Wisconsin’s student government voted to pass the internal budget Tuesday before opening debate to the entire representative body, highlighting what may become contentious budgetary issues.
Associated Students of Madison’s Coordinating Council convened Oct. 23 to amend, debate and vote on the internal budget, ultimately passing the budget to receive further debate in Student Council.
According to ASM Press Officer David Gardner, one major change was made outside of Coordinating Council with the removal of Homecoming and All-Campus Party from the internal budget.
The money was reallocated to event grants with the expectation it would be allocated to Homecoming and All-Campus Party, Gardner said, after concerns were raised to ASM Chair Andrew Bulovsky regarding the funds’ placement.
Bulovsky said the events were removed in an effort to minimize debate.
However, although the disagreement regarding budget for Homecoming and All-Campus Party was minimized, Gardner said he anticipates the $60,000 budget for Varsity Day, a fund meant to attract “world-class” speakers to campus, to raise debate among members of Student Council.
Chief Justice of ASM’s Judiciary Branch Nicholas Checker motioned for the body to “zero-fund” Varsity Day, adding UW has plenty of top-line faculty who would be willing to offer the same speaking services for free.
However, Bulovsky emphasized his passion for Varsity Day and said such an event with a renowned speaker would not only bring prestige to the university, but would also provide students with a long-lasting “tangible experience.”
“This is a very personal one for me,” Bulovsky said. “In fact, this is the only line I would say I have any passion for in this entire budget. This is an opportunity for student government to actually benefit campus. Something that students can actually feel tangibly, the tangible benefit to campus. If you don’t want that, I honestly don’t know why you are in student government.”
According to Bulovsky, more events, like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s visit to campus, which was funded by this same budget allocation under a different name, increase the university’s presence and leave students with tangible experiences to take away from their time at UW.
ASM Chief of Staff Sarah Neibart said she agreed with Bulovsky and stressed her desire to increase the budget to $75,000. She added with the arrival of the new chancellor next year, she hopes such a speaking event and budget will be institutionalized as a traditional UW event.
However, with the 2013-14 budget cuts to grassroots committee budgets and travel budgets, Gardner said he felt uncomfortable with such a large sum being allocated to a single event, which he alleged, in the case of Tyson’s visit, did not get ASM’s name out.
“The Neil deGrasse Tyson event was not advertised at all as an ASM event,” Gardner said. “There was no material benefit to ASM. I am personally incredibly uncomfortable with a lot of the cuts that we are seeing, and seems that they are being done to accommodate a fund for a speaker that has no benefit for ASM.”
Bulovsky added it is not of his concern if ASM is gaining the appropriate attention from Varsity Day, but rather he wanted to impact the students “who do not even know what ASM stands for.”
ASM Vice Chair Maria Giannopoulos said although ASM may not be rightly associated with the speaker events, the university as a whole will gain national attention.
“When high-caliber speakers come to campuses, those speeches are on the news, which is not something I am seeing from the University of Wisconsin,” Giannopoulos said.
Despite the debate, Checker’s amendment failed to pass, along with an amendment cut of $6,000 from the Assistant Press Office budget. However, an increase to travel grants from $80,000 to $100,000 was passed, along with a $5,000 increase to Director and Staff programs.
Gardner said he expects to see Varsity Day as a contentious issue in Student Council as it poses a “philosophical debate.”
Student Council must pass the internal budget by Nov. 15, Bulovsky said, adding the vote will occur Nov. 14. Should Student Council be inefficient with its debate, Bulovsky said it will lose its vote completely.