At a University of Wisconsin student government committee meeting Monday, University Health Services proposed a two-year plan to financially back support for expanded mental health and sexual assault services — a change that would cost students almost $45 more per semester.
The Student Services Finance Committee, a branch of Associated Students of Madison, also unanimously approved WSUM’s budget proposal of $376,599 Monday.
UHS budget proposal aims to meet student body’s growing health needs
UHS proposed a budget that reduces its cash reserves to the state required amount, increases UHS revenue and closes the structural deficit, UHS Executive Director Sarah Van Orman said.
Van Orman said students whose needs are not met in the areas of mental health and sexual assault approach UHS everyday, which prompted UHS to propose a two-year plan to enhance these services.
The plan includes hiring more staff, which will reduce wait times between mental health appointments from two to three weeks to just one week, Van Orman said. The plan also expands victim advocacy services, providing one-on-one support to ensure that students are aware of their rights and can remain in school, heal and recover, Van Orman said.
The proposed budget, however, would increase the student health fee per semester from $167.28 to $212.26, UHS predicted. UHS Administrative Director Arnie Jennerman said it’s a large increase, but it’s to meet the demands that students are making on a daily basis.
“UHS has proposed an aggressive plan to meet student needs in areas of mental health and violence prevention,” SSFC Vice Chair Brett DuCharme said.
DuCharme said the question that remains is whether the proposal’s benefits will be worth the increased student fees.
SSFC will further review the UHS budget proposal Feb. 11.
Approval of WSUM budget
WSUM is UW’s student-licensed radio station, and SSFC approved its new budget on the grounds that its members were fiscally responsible and showed no major increases in spending.
“Any cuts to the WSUM budget would actually make me nervous, because it’s such a great organization,” Rep. Natasha Thimmesch said.
WSUM members spoke extensively about how joining the radio station has changed their lives for the better, whether it be because the station provided an outlet for their musical passion or because they discovered their callings in life there.
WSUM DJ Jack Claybourne said joining the station was one of the best decisions he ever made.
SSFC does not reach decision regarding addition to the ASM election ballot
United Council members requested that the question: “Do you support the use of ASM resources to grow the grassroots statewide student movement?” be added to the 2016 ASM election ballot.
Rep. Kyle Watter criticized the question as being vague and untenable, as referendums traditionally contain specific monetary amounts.
“[SSFC] would be putting a referendum out there that we can’t control,” Watter said.
Rep. Colin Barushok proposed multiple amendments to the wording of the question, including inserting “non-financial” before “resources” in order to ensure that SSFC would not be making promises it could potentially not keep.
But not all proposed amendments passed, and the vote on the referendum will happen at the next meeting Feb. 11.