The University of Wisconsin’s student government is weighing changes to the eligibility requirements for student organizations to receive funding, but some say the proposed changes would only act as a “band-aid” that does not address the major underlying issues.

The General Student Services Fund, which is money distributed to student organizations that provide student services, has been a topic of discussion since the beginning of the fall semester, David Gardner, Associated Students of Madison chair, said.

GSSF funds are allocated by the Student Services Finance Committee.

SSFC has been taking the time to discuss GSSF policy and eligibility criteria to decide what is helpful and what is not, Gardner said. Some of the current requirements seem to deter some student groups from applying, he said.

ASM Rep. Devon Maier said he is worried that if the proposal is passed, keeping student segregated fees low will become “impossible.”

The current GSSF policy is a two-tiered system, Maier said. The proposed changes up for consideration do nothing to address this problem, he said.

“Last year, the 18 GSSF groups received $1.4 million, while the other 800-plus student organizations fought for $500,000,” Maier said. “I would fully embrace this proposal if we capped individual budgets at $5,000 to $10,000 to allow all student organizations access while keeping segregated fees under control.”

The Greater University Tutorial Service, Adventure Learning Program, Sex Out Loud, Badger Catholic and the Medieval Warriorcraft League are all GSSF groups that received more than $95,000 in student funds in 2013-2014.

The committee is interested in “recycling” unused or surplus funds and is currently looking for groups to be able to return unused funds instead of spending them on things that are not necessary, Gardner said. This change would allow excess funding to be put back into other ASM budgets to support other facets of the university, he said.

The direct service requirement for eligibility, which requires every student organization that receives segregated fee funding provide a direct, tangible service to the student body, could also face changes, Gardner said.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not this requirement is allowing student organizations to reach their full potential, Gardner said. The response to proposed changes has been mostly positive, he said.

“The committee has been discussing the true purpose of GSSF,” Gardner said. “It is imperative that student groups be able to perform their duties.”

If this change is accepted it will allow student groups to better provide services that fit their mission statement, Maier said. However, the changes may fail to address the larger problems that GSSF faces, he said.

The proposed changes are deeply flawed, Maier said. Nothing is stopping student segregated fees from “skyrocketing” because the current caps for an individual groups funding are not being adjusted, he said.

If the current funding caps, ranging $100,000 to $175,000, are not changed, Maier said the GSSF could double from its current balance of $1.4 million.

“The model is still based on organizations providing supply before campus has justified a demand,” Maier said. “Until that is reversed, any attempt at fixing the GSSF is the equivalence of putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.”

The solution is for the GSSF to “turn upside down,” Maier said. ASM should be involved enough on campus that the group knows what students want and need, he said. This knowledge should help ASM create contracts and competitively bid those out to student groups, he said.

This change would also allow ASM to be more relevant to the entire student body and have control over the budget, Maier said.

“Students are sick of the political mess that is their student government, and this proposal does nothing to fix the broken system,” Maier said. “The idea certainly has some merits and strong points, but until we address the real problem we’ll never fully represent all students.”

[Photo by Flickr user
Phil Roeder