Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Funding process convoluted and unfair

If you’ve picked up a single student newspaper in the past six weeks, you have probably read something about the Student Services Finance Committee, or SSFC.

It was most likely either a complaint about a decision that they made, a justification by one of their members concerning how they make the decisions that they make, or an appeal to them to make a particular decision.

But do any of you really understand what this committee is and what kind of power they have? These are the people that are distributing student segregated fees — which is money that comes out of your tuition. In other words, this very small, select group of students is in charge of distributing millions of dollars of your tuition money.

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I personally view segregated fees as a wonderful resource that our university utilizes to fund various student organizations on campus. These organizations provide essential services for the health, safety, and growth of our student population. Now, regardless of how you feel about segregated fees, you need to understand the way in which these funds are distributed.

The student organization that I work for, Sex Out Loud, just finished its yearly interaction with the committee. And let me tell you, it was not a pleasant one. This committee is made up of somewhere between 7 and 14 people, maybe 15 — I’m really not sure, seeing as how the full committee never shows up at a single meeting together.

The hearing process for student organizations to receive funding is a two-part ordeal. The committee hears the student organizations’ arguments in one meeting for why they deserve their requested funding, and then the organization must return to the next meeting to hear the committee make a decision about their funding.

This means that — theoretically — seven committee members could hear the arguments from the student organization in one meeting, and seven completely different committee members could then make the decision about how to fund the organization in the next. That’s a little unfair if you ask me.

Now, these rather inefficient SSFC meetings last between four and six hours. So far this year, I have probably spent 14 hours at SSFC meetings as the project coordinator for Sex Out Loud. That doesn’t count the endless hours that I have spent preparing for these meetings.

The reason that so much preparation is needed is because student organizations have to fight tooth and nail for funding. In making this funding process so difficult, time-consuming, and nerve-wracking for student organizations, the SSFC limits the services that can be provided for these organizations. This just compounds that fact that these same services have already been compromised as a result of under-funding by the SSFC in past years.

In case you don’t know much about our student government (which you probably don’t — or maybe you just don’t care — because few of you vote in ASM elections), students are the ones that elect the members of the SSFC. So, these committee members, who are elected by a very small minority of students on our campus, distribute the money that comes out of the tuition of all students.

This money is then given to student organizations, such as Sex Out Loud, that will serve 10,000 to 20,000 students per year. That means that we serve approximately 93 percent more students than even voted for the members of SSFC. So, really, where are the students’ voices in all of this?

Absent. Instead of choosing to represent the students on this campus, several committee members choose to put their personal agendas first. Although some committee members act in a fair manner that is respectful of the diverse needs of our student body, far too many do not.

The key phrase here is non-viewpoint neutrality. I know that this word is loosely defined and interpreted in various ways. I also know that a person’s viewpoint will always affect the way in which she or he personally views the inherent value of an organization and its services. But we’re not asking the committee members to let us know what their personal feelings are about an organization — which, by the way, they do far too ostentatiously.

It seems obvious to me that the only behavior necessary for committee members to remain viewpoint neutral is to realize that no one cares about their own political or religious ideals and that they should never use their all-to-powerful positions to push their moral agendas on others.

That means that although committee members may not agree with an organization’s philosophy, they still need to evaluate the organization on the basis of whether or not that organization will serve an otherwise underserved population of students.

In the case of Sex Out Loud, we do serve an underserved population of students — that being all of you. We are all sexual beings, and in the United States sex in all its varied forms has been culturally constructed as a taboo subject.

We are instead put into rigid gender stereotypes and forced to subscribe to constricting sexual norms. At Sex Out Loud, we attempt to deconstruct these cultural norms in order to be respectful of everyone’s sexual identity and sexual experiences.

We give you information about safer sex, consent, sexual assault, healthy relationships, pleasure, sexual imagination, and communication in a fun and safe environment.

We also bring you free condoms, which we purchase for up to 90 percent less than what they would cost in a store. And if you’re not having sex — whatever your definition of sex may be — we are serving you, too, because it is very likely that you will choose to become sexually active at some point in your life or that you will know someone who is.

The number of students that we serve increases every year. However, if we do not receive increased funding, we absolutely cannot increase our services. We didn’t receive that increase this year, and it’s you — the students — that will be the most affected by this.

Meghan Benson ([email protected]) is a Sex Out Loud project coordinator.

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