And the Commentary Flies From All Sides…

As the newly redesigned Badger Herald reports, SSFC held a GSSF/SSFC mixer last night during our normally scheduled meeting time (the ASM Press Office also covered it).  The purpose of this meeting was to get genuine feedback on the SSFC process from the perspective of a GSSF (General Student Services Fund) group.

I understand the dynamic the occurs when a group has to present in front of a committee; it’s terribly nerve-racking to present for a body that is potentially deciding the fate of your group.  That is why I proposed an intern to facilitate the conversation without being a member of the SSFC, which the Badger Herald has a non-opinion on.  The purpose of this intern is to work with GSSF groups to make SSFC look less scary.

One of the best pieces of advice I got last night was the recommendation that we should go to more GSSF events.  This is a fantastic idea.  All SSFC members should at least go to one GSSF event to see that there is more to these groups than what appears on paper, but GSSF groups have to know that it goes both ways; they need to come to more than just their own SSFC hearing to see that we apply rules consistently and don’t have a vendetta towards a particular group.

But much of the feedback centered around going further than a mutual understanding.  Many individuals wanted us to reconsider the way the committee works in general by dropping Robert’s Rules of Order or encouraging a lax dress code.  One went so far as to say that we should rewrite our criteria, and that GSSF groups should have a say in it!  I hope you realize how ridiculous it is to create a funding stream when those who are affected are helping to write it.  That sounds like the definition of a conflict of interests.

Former SSFC Chair Kurt Gosselin weighed in on it last night as well:

My response: This is the same litany from organizations who are either upset about not being eligible to receive funding or upset that the SSFC did not grant all of their 25-50% budget increase.  I have commented on suit-wearing many times before and I will let those posts stand on their own merits; however, I think it is important to make a note about why the SSFC should ABSOLUTELY NOT be “buddy-buddy” with groups.

The popularly-touted mantra, “we are all students and we should all want to help each other do what we each want to do,” is ridiculous when considering that the SSFC allocates over $1.4 million to these organizations!  This isn’t a “dude, can I bum a buck off of you” friendship; this is a relationship between a steward of funds, established to protect the interests of 42,000 students and interest groups attempting to each obtain its piece of the pie.

Of course the process should require lots of work and of course the process should involve a certain level of dissonance between the funder and the funding-seeker! Without this dynamic, the committee would not be able to maintain the necessary separation from the groups to scrutinize every dollar requested.  It would in fact be detrimental to the entire system for the SSFC to sympathize with (translation: give whatever is desired to) the organizations which desire it.

Kurt brings up some good points, but I can’t say I agree.  We are all students and we should have a mutual understanding of each other’s situation.  There is nothing wrong with making the process less adversarial and more friendly.   He’s right, SSFC does have a job to do, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be inherently intimidating.

But I must draw the line between friendliness and breaking down the dynamic entirely.  SSFC must maintain a degree of accountability, or we would be failing to do our job.  There is dignity in professionalism.    If we cease to scrutinize every group and every budget, then we would be letting down the campus in our elected and appointed capacity.

For those who have expressed their worries, I am listening, and I am hearing the concerns.  I will work to make SSFC more approachable and less-intimidating.  But I will not advocate for SSFC to stop doing it’s job.


8 Comments on “And the Commentary Flies From All Sides…”

  1. I don’t know if I go so far as to say the committee should not be friendly, so much as I am advocating for maintaining a clear line between funder and funding recipient. My concern is more applicable to when “friendly” becomes “not able/willing to scrutinize/make tough decisions” on the budgets & eligibility decisions.

  2. TJ Madsen says:

    “One went so far as to say that we should rewrite our criteria, and that GSSF groups should have a say in it! I hope you realize how ridiculous it is to create a funding stream when those who are affected are helping to write it.”

    I don’t think that is necessarily THAT ridiculous. We are all students, we are *all* affected by the GSSF funds. Simply claiming that they shouldn’t have input into the criteria simply since they are benefiting from it is, in my opinion, ridiculous. The members of SSFC have serious and respectable experience with the procedural and financial aspects of the process. Similarly, the leadership in GSSF groups have respectable experience with designing and providing services.

    To me, it would seem logical to include people with experience providing student services in any discussion circling around a general student services fund.

    • campusfirst says:

      Would you object to a group that was denied entry into the GSSF advocating for changed criteria that they would help create?

    • Assuming that leadership in GSSF groups have respectable experience with designing and providing services is to a degree a flawed assumption.

      First, three years ago (and prior to that time) the GSSF was not service-oriented at all. It functioned as a means for larger, popular groups to get more funding than was available through grants and a method through which students could get jobs. This is the unfortunate history of our GSSF.

      It is only a recent phenomenon that our system has incorporated a substantial emphasis on services to students, and this decision was made in a manner to 1) distinguish which organizations really should receive $100,000 comprehensive budgets and 2) maintain the long-term solvency of a volatile and unpredictable funding model.

      I will concede that GSSF group leaders have experience running their student organizations (and may have experience developing and executing services), but I think it is also important to identify other incentives that GSSF group leaders have: 1) maintaining their organizations in an equivalent or improved form and 1a) Obtaining the money to complete (1). Thus, there is incentive for the GSSF leaders to advocate for a system which makes this second job easier (and transitively the first job easier as well).

      However, it is the job of SSFC to look toward the long-term solvency of segregated fees from a broader perspective when determining how student dollars are spent. The conflicted interest I listed above for GSSF leaders unfortunately can hinder the SSFC’s ability to do their duty of seg fee stewardship. Thus, it is important that SSFC, Student Council, etc. recognize these competing interests and take a system-wide, big picture approach to establishing and maintaining modes of student activity funding.

  3. P Okan (UWRF) says:

    You take the words right out of my mouth. Our Allocable Fees Appropriation Board (AFAB) has been having communication issues with student organizations requesting funding, and I’ve been struggling to determine a good compromise situation where AFAB can remain neutral while the organizations can be less intimidated with the process. Unfortunately, I have not had much success with this.

    • campusfirst says:

      Good to hear from you Patrick! How are things in River Falls?

      Anyway, that’s the balance that we all seek to find. I don’t think that “success” can be found in that all sides will be happy, so we have to make do. Both sides need to strike an understanding, a statement to agree to disagree, if you will. Its a matter of compromise.

      • P Okan (UWRF) says:

        We’re in the midst of budget season, and all our performance arts organizations are out for blood. But, it’s not my problem – I’m not on AFAB. The only reason I bring it up or think about it is because this does have long-term ramifications for shared governance and the student organizations. It’s unfortunate that our AFAB is viewed as so anti-student, when I feel the problem has just been lack of clear and constant communication.

  4. I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog — it’s interesting to see the thinking that goes on behind the scenes, and comforting to know that it’s being done.

    A few comments- As for the formal attire, I really do think either suits or business causal dress are the best options to display the professionalism and commitment that it takes to be on the SSFC. As intimidating as it can be to present in front of a group of suited committee members, I believe it’s much more frustrating to have someone dressed like a slob and still interrogating you pretentiously. As a presenting group, you’ve most likely been preparing for MONTHS for one night when the committee basically rips your presentation apart and assumes that you’re lying about most of your requests (I don’t mean that as a bash to the SSFC, because I understand that it’s important to get to the bottom of what’s necessary for funding and what’s not). However, it’s heart-wrenching when you believe the committee isn’t taking your presentation seriously or listening in utmost attention, which is what casual dress can often make it seem. I think business casual would be a nice mix of displaying professionalism and respect to the groups presenting.

    I also agree that it is important for the SSFC to attend more GSSF group events. I realize time is limited as the members are simultaneously trying to be good students, but I think it is necessary for the committee to see how the funds are being used as both respect to the group and duty as stewards of the funds. It would also be an opportunity to give recommendations for the group for what could be improved in the future, even if it does require extra funding in the following budgets. I think that recommendations from the SSFC would make the committee 1) more likely to approve them if they know it’s going to improve the cause, 2) more likely to appear as if they’re looking out for the group’s well being rather than appearing that it’s hoping for failure so it doesn’t need to provide funds anymore, and 3) helpful in increasing the number of students in attendance when the event is carried out to the fullest of its potential.

    Those are my thoughts! Great blog and great job!… I’ll definitely keep this one bookmarked!

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