Words by Matthew Romano
Illustrations by Katie Herchenroeder
On the night of Thursday, February 28, 37 club leaders gathered at the office of the Undergraduate Student Government in NAC 1/110 for an emergency referendum. Besides free food, these 37 club leaders were driven by one lustrous and potentially groundbreaking incentive: increased USG funding for their respective student clubs.
There are approximately 200 student clubs and organizations on campus reliant on the funding from CCNY’s Undergraduate Student Government in order to run their club successfully, plan and execute exciting campus wide social events, and serve the portion of the student body which they represent.
With the loss of AEC (Auxiliary Enterprise Corporation) funding and the lack of an earmarked allocation of the USG budget only accessible by student clubs and organizations, student clubs have been forced to make ends meet in any way possible. One such club leader is Annisaa Sularno, President of the Teachers of Tomorrow club, who mentioned, with respect to the club’s current budget, “We only get around $500, it was decreased from $1000 to $500.” Further, Hannah Towfiek cited her experience as a club leader and representative on the finance committee “It’s so sad to see clubs like [Muslim Student Organization] or you have clubs like [Young Democratic Socialists of America], big clubs that do big things on campus and they’’re coming to you begging you for a couple hundred dollars, and as were administering this money it’s like “ok, you can have $700 dollars.”
USG understood this situation and devised a prospective solution – in the form of a proposal – to alleviate these budgetary constraints while also negotiating their own debt.
First, it’s important to take note of the statistics and crunched numbers on which the proposition was founded. Under such, the roughly 12,000 undergrad students would pay $14 more in Student Activity Fees per year. This makes for about $168,000 in SAF, earmarked at $1,300 for each of the 130 registered clubs on campus – money devoid of any possible interference or intense oversight. Simple enough, right? It would seem so, but it raises the question as to why such a movement has not gone into action before and why the initial idea was only floated around over this past winter break?
Frantzy Luzincourt, vice president of student affairs, along with Towfiek, who are spearheading this referendum, share their thoughts on the current state of affairs as it relates to the current budget, the exigence of this movement, and some of the next-steps for USG and the campus community.
Luzincourt cedes that the state of CCNY’s current SAF is outdated and in dire straits: “Hannah and I both have the privilege of representing City College at the University Student Senate for the CUNY wide level so, we see how other schools operate and we’re at the lower end yet, we’re the first, the other CUNY schools wouldn’t exist without us.” This new vision hopes to return to when clubs would receive $1,800 to $2,000 a year, based on archived budget pamphlets from 2011. It is this perspective that opened the floodgates for change to occur, a change that they hoped would serve as the rising tide to lift all club boats.
The impact and wide-reaching benefits the referendum would have had on student clubs and organizations is pretty obvious. This impact noted, the referendum entails a $14 per year tuition hike for all students, whether or not they are affiliated with a student club. How does one grapple with this seeming contradiction between the interests and points of importance for this population of students and those that would seem to benefit the most from such a referendum? Luzincourt provides an answer to this, “Indirectly, you’re still affected by it… all these little resources that you take part of every time that you don’t really notice because it’s so consistent, those all come from Student Activity Fees.”
He goes on to cite some of these resources and events, namely: Student Life’s Welcome Back Event, Free HIV testing, yoga classes, WCCR, and even, full disclosure, The Campus, all of which provide services to the student-wide population with the help of the portions of the USG budget which they are allocated. Herein lies the heart of the matter – the exigence – CCNY will look very different if the school shifts the amount of SAF.
The official deadline, by which USG had to produce at least 2000 signatures from the CCNY student population in support of this petition, was Thursday, March 14 at 8pm. In advance of the deadline; however, Luzincourt shared the dire status of the referendum based on the number of signatures that had been received by then. At the point of conversation, USG had only received 900 out of the 2000 minimum signatures needed for the referendum to go through.
Alas, USG’s petition did not break such ground as they never received the signatures needed. The effects of this can be expected to continue to reverberate across campus. As Towfiek iterated, “Clubs aren’t active because they don’t have the funds to be active.” There exists an interesting dichotomy in the club community here at City College between the largest, most popular clubs with the largest-scale events and biggest presence, and the smaller ones that persevere despite low budgets and student populations. In the failure of this referendum, the dichotomy widens.
Despite this, Luzincourt promised that USG will not let up so long as the campus community doesn’t. With his and Towfiek’s tenure as representatives expected to continue, the fight will continue. Luzincourt offered advice to everyone, whether they’re involved in a club or not, a senior or a freshman, a small or large club: “Students have to tap in, be aware of what’s going on, and get involved as soon as they can. The fight for more funding is not going to be easy and its definitely not going to just stop at banging on the VP of finances door.”