LETTER: SGA Executive Treasurer Ian Mandt responds to “Don’t ask students to fund scholarships”

Following the release of the editorial “Don’t ask students to fund scholarships,” I wanted to provide some clarifying information that we were not given the opportunity to provide prior to its publication. The most central point being that this scholarship is intended to give back unspent money to students through a scholarship.

The source of funding:

Student Government Association, SGA, does intend to create a scholarship for returning undergraduate students who have shown excellence in leadership in their time at the college. However, the allocation of that funding does not, in any way, affect the funding organizations will receive for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The $226 annual student activities fee mentioned in the editorial is allocated to organizations based on the requests they submit during the Annual Budget Request process. The Appeals balance is based on unspent organization funding from prior years. The Appeals account currently holds a balance of $48,352.57, after 31 approved Appeal Requests this year. Any SGA-recognized student organization is able to request additional funding through the Appeals Request process.

The funding for this scholarship would come from the funds that organizations have not spent from their budgets in prior years, not from the amount available for annual allocation to student organizations.

Additionally, the Financial Advisory Board and members of Joint Session take great care in ensuring that organizations have the opportunity to grow over their time at the college. While next year’s allocations have not yet been finalized, the Financial Advisory Board is recommending an increase of roughly $140,000 from last year.

To say that funding this scholarship hinders an organization’s “opportunity to grow and use our funds to improve every year” disregards the fact that we routinely close the fiscal year with unspent funds in both organization accounts and the Appeals budget. It also does not account for the fact that, in the vast majority of cases, organization budgets do increase from year to year.

The propriety of the scholarship in the context of Protesting Oppression With Educational Reform, POWER:

The editorial also raises concerns about the propriety of funding a scholarship while progress to achieve the demands raised by POWER has been slow. However, the editorial does not acknowledge the fact that President Pelton, in his 2017 State of the College Letter, announced the creation of the “topper scholarship fund” which provides five $20,000 scholarships to students of color and socio-economically disadvantaged students. This scholarship fund is double what POWER demanded in their petition last semester and comes from the college, not from students.

The student leader scholarship at issue is a supplement, not a replacement for progress.

Additionally, Celia Reilly and Lucie Pereira, the co-chairs of POWER, were not contacted prior to publication of this editorial. While they cannot speak on behalf of POWER’s entire membership at the current moment, they are both in favor of the student leadership scholarship.

For the last month and a half, I have been working on the inaugural Financial Accountability Initiative which is designed to address the structural inequality perpetuated by the financial inaccessibility of this college. The catalyst for all of this work are the issues raised by POWER during last semester’s protest. Part of addressing these issues includes providing resources for students to fund their education.

Unclear Requirements:

The editorial also raised concerns about the fact that the requirements of this scholarship are not clearly outlined, nor is the process by which this scholarship would be awarded. These are accurate assessments. However, no money has been allocated to the scholarship for those exact reasons.

During all Joint Session discussions of this scholarship, we have made clear that these plans are not set in stone and that we intend to create and share a more concrete plan prior to allocating funding. While concrete details have been sparse, that is by design. With this still in the discussion stage, we want the opportunity to solicit input from members of Joint Session and from the student body prior to any vote, both by the SGA and the student body in the form of a constitutional amendment.

I want to conclude by reiterating what was mentioned in the final paragraph of the editorial. If these discussions raise any concerns, please reach out. We exist to speak on behalf of students, and we work consciously to do so. That does require work and investment from students that goes beyond posting on social media. I ask that you reach out if you have questions, thoughts, or concerns about anything we do.

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