Student Union leadership tackles budget cuts

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Information desk staffer Ethan McMullen, freshman in civil engineering, helps a student navigate the Union. (Carter Schaffer | Collegian Media Group)

Two years after COVID-19 hit the university, the aftermath and shockwaves sent through every service on campus finally caught up to the Kansas State Student Union. For Executive Director Corey Williamson and the Student Governing Association, that means making budget cuts.

On March 10, 2022, SGA voted to reduce the Union budget over the next three years because of decreasing enrollment. The cuts eliminated free weekend parking and game-day shuttle services, removed information desk staff and reduced the student employee budget, according to a copy of the bill.

“[There were] four meetings that I had with [the] Student Services Fee group, and I had additional conversations with the student services chair,” Williamson said. “I feel like the committee did their due diligence to make sure they were meeting the goals they were hoping to accomplish while also recognizing the Union’s value to the campus community.”

Williamson said the reduced student employee budget will not affect current workers, but rather how many students the Union can hire in the coming years.

Before COVID-19, the Union had over 100 student employees: it now has 72 positions filled. Williamson said about 40-45 percent of student positions are filled at the beginning of the fall semester.

Sydney Tumberger, junior in biological systems engineering, works at the bowling alley in the basement of the Union.

“I’m just worried about being low-staffed in case anyone needs a day off, and they can’t get it,” Tumberger said. “I know there’s a lot of people leaving, so I think it’s gonna be tough for the bowling alley to find new people to work, especially if [our boss] can’t hire more than a certain amount of people.”

Associate Director and Building Operations Director Craig Johnson oversees a portion of the Union’s employees, including the information desk staff. Although the information desk positions will discontinue in the fall, the seven-member staff will have other work opportunities if they want to continue working at the Union.

“We will be offering them a position somewhere else within the Union,” Johnson said. “Many of them will probably be offered the opportunity to transition into our set-up teams.”

Information desk staffer Ethan McMullen, freshman in civil engineering, said he does not know if he will continue working at the Union next semester. While not dependent on the income, McMullen said he did enjoy having extra spending money.

However, Williamson said that if the Union can generate more revenue, it can begin reestablishing services it lost to the budget cuts. He plans on prioritizing the student-employee budget.

“Our decisions [to bring back services] will depend on what the demands and needs are of the Union at the time,” Williamson said. “If traffic continues to increase, we’re going to need to make sure that we have the student employee staff to make sure we can support that.”

The parking garage and shuttle bus services could see a return as well. Although not the number one priority for Williamson, the fee could be outsourced to other units in the Union, such as food or retail services.

“My hope is to continue to seek partners that are interested in maintaining those services,” Williamson said. “The Union may not be able to support it, but there may be other opportunities there that we’ll continue to investigate over time regardless of our financial scenario.”

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