After more than an hour of heated debate in the Student Governing Association’s student senate last Thursday, the Privilege Fee Committee’s recommendation to decrease the Union Program Council’s student fee allocation by two percent failed by just one vote.
With an uncertain path to remediation, the UPC budget hangs in the balance at Kansas State University.
The initial recommendation passed through committee unanimously after extensive debate and several motions with differing amounts of proposed decreases in November.
The decrease that passed out of committee would lower the budget of UPC by about $4,000. UPC’s current allocation from student privilege fees is more than $210,000.
The recommendation from the committee struck a chord with many student senators like Jonathan Cole, senior in mechanical engineering. He debated against the bill when it came up for final reading in the student senate.
“The Privilege Fee Committee wants to cut UPC because they feel the organization spends money frivolously on food,” Cole later said via text message. “This cut is marginal to students, but [also] has a big impact on students. This is a reduction of 19 cents per student, but an almost $5,000 cut to UPC.”
Rajat Kodira, at-large PFC member and junior in industrial engineering, voted on the recommendation initially in the committee, but later had a change of heart. He is not a student senator, so he could not vote against the bill, but he did argue against it.
With a dead bill, PFC postponed its current review of the four K-State Student Union budgets to resume discussion on the UPC allocation. Several senators not on the committee and other students were present to contribute to the conversation. Beth Bailey, adviser to UPC and assistant director of the Union, and Corey Williamson, executive director of the Union, were also in attendance.
Bailey spent the first portion of the meeting presenting an abridged version of the original presentation to the committee and fielding questions from committee members.
“Legitimately, if we are cut, depending on the amount of the cut, then committees get lost,” Bailey said. “That’s just a reality.”
Natalie Jabben, student senator and sophomore in political science and philosophy, said organizations should be doing the most for students with the money they have.
“I don’t think we should see a decrease to a budget as some sort of punishment or comment on a group being bad or corrupt or something like that,” Jabben said. “We want to do the most we can with however much money we are given, and if a group is able to do or create a similar impact for students with less money, I think that all of us can agree that that’s a good thing.”
Without an approved recommendation from the student senate, the UPC budget cannot be approved, said Jansen Penny, PFC chair and junior in industrial engineering.
“Their current contract expires at the end of this fiscal year, so they technically would not have funding for the next year,” Penny said. “Now it kind of clears the whole slate and we have to start from scratch there.”
Hannah Heatherman, student senator and junior in finance and management, debated in favor of the bill. At the completion of Monday night’s meeting, she said she had not been swayed from supporting a decrease to UPC’s allocation.
“I am absolutely still in favor of a decrease to [UPC],” Heatherman said. “My reasoning for believing that way is after several times reading UPC’s mission statement, which is very experience driven, knowing that they spend nearly $30,000 on prizes and giveaways [that] are not necessarily things I think enhance community here.”
Cole said in the new legislation, which Penny thought would ideally appear before student senate on Feb. 14, he could only vote ‘yes’ on a continuance of their current budget.
“I believe what UPC brought before you was a request for a continuance, and I support that request,” Williamson said. “Regardless of how this works out, we are going to continue to be fiscally responsible.”
Later, via email, Bailey elaborated to what extent a cut could impact UPC.
“If UPC were to be cut by [two percent], we would need to review all of our committee budgets to see what could realistically and feasibly be cut with the least impact to the K-State students,” Bailey said. “I trust that the UPC executive board has the best interests of the K-State students in mind and will come up with creative solutions to the budget challenge. We will — as always — strive to produce the best programs that reach out to a vast, diverse student audience on campus.”
Madison Brown, vice chair of the committee and sophomore in finance, initially debated in favor of the bill, but reluctantly said she could now support a continuance.
“I got to hear a lot of really great debate, and there were a lot of really moving speakers whose opinions I respect a lot,” Brown said.
Penny said he thinks the committee will ultimately find a common ground between the original recommendation to decrease by two percent and the continuance initially requested by UPC.
“I do not think the recommendation will be changed by a large quantity,” Penny said. “I’d be expecting a continuance or a one percent decrease.”
As of now, a definitive decision has not been made. Penny said he expects the committee to vote on a recommendation in a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Konza Room in the Union.