“Wild,” “outrageous,” “unheard of” and “irresponsible” are adjectives that have all been used to describe a budget request submitted recently by the Multicultural Student Coalition. Columns and staff editorials to this effect have been published in both campus newspapers and now, still more than a week away from a formal hearing over the fate of their budget, the leaders of MCSC must be feeling a little beaten down.
This should not be the case. Since when do we chide an organization for asking for funding? Our attention should be focused on the Student Services Finance Committee, the group responsible for doling out student fees, and not on the students who have gone to them for help.
MCSC is a well-valued student organization working to fill the often-large gaps in our campus administration’s diversity effort. MCSC members have played an important role in applying pressure to the administration, demanding accountability from campus leadership and participating widely in recruitment and mentoring programs, all with the aim of increasing campus diversity and bettering the campus climate for all students. This is an organization that can and should receive more funding to carry out specific new programs and to bolster those they already have.
It is wrong to expect students of color and organizations such as MCSC to take on UW-Madison’s job of increasing racial diversity without some sort of compensation. That said, while some of the specific requests made by MCSC may be inflated and should be adjusted, this is an organization that deserves increased funding and should be treated as a priority by SSFC.
Therein lies the problem. MCSC’s large request, combined with other requests for new funding and the stated goal of holding down tuition costs, promises to leave the student government in a jam. While this process shouldn’t be a challenge for MCSC, it will most certainly be one for the Associated Students of Madison and SSFC.
Our student leaders are going to have to balance their interests and set funding priorities, or be exposed as hypocrites. The interests SSFC must weigh are obvious: they (as a part of the ASM) claim to oppose tuition increases, but also say they want increased diversity. One will require fiscal restraint and the other will cost some cash. ASM should see this debate as an opportunity to prove its commitment to diversity and to programs that benefit the entire campus community, rather than specific interests groups.
There is no reason SSFC cannot alter the funding levels of other organizations to make room for much of MCSC’s request while at the same time remaining fiscally responsible.
Some suggestions: cut funding for groups that do not even approach serving the entire campus, like the UW Greens who use our money to go to protests, or stop sending ASM members on junkets to conferences all over the country. These cuts may not sound like much fun, but sometimes being in a position of leadership isn’t all laughs and trips to Florida or Washington, D.C.
The funding request made by MCSC could provide a seminal moment for ASM. These same folks that spend so much time preaching to the rest of us are actually going to have to make a difficult decision with consequences to follow. If they choose to fund MCSC and stay true to their principle of minimal tuition increases by making cuts in other areas, they are worthy of our respect (and that would be a first). If they fund everyone and make no cuts then students will pay more and ASM will forfeit what little credibility it has left. If they opt not to fund MCSC then we will all lose.
This will be a hell of a thing to watch. They won’t be debating some superfluous resolution, or trying to compete with one another to see who can appear to be the most compassionate. No, they actually have an important task ahead of them and we should all watch, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to do the right thing.