EDITORIALS

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November 25, 2008

Say it ain’t joe

While the distribution of complimentary caffeinated beverages initially seems like something every student could get behind, further inspection reveals the stunt to be shortsighted.

At a typical meeting, the Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC) sends a fair number of students home empty-handed. Other groups receive thousands of dollars less than they request and are forced to scramble for funding to pay for large events.

If some College Council (CC) members have their way, however, SGFC will soon allocate $900 for a free coffee and tea giveaway at Ex Libris. While the distribution of complimentary caffeinated beverages initially seems like something every student could get behind, further inspection reveals the stunt to be shortsighted.

The proposal calls for all coffee at Ex Libris to be free from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. during reading period and the first three days of finals week. First-year CC representative Chen Kuan, who first proposed the giveaway, explained in an e-mail to the CC listhost that the event would “improve students’ welfare in a very direct manner” by keeping them caffeinated and energetic while studying. In addition, Kuan said, the event would support Ex Libris, a student-run coffee shop, and serve as “a great way to advertise about Student Government.”

It’s the final point that is the most important to dispel. Student Government (SG) should not be in the business of trying to buy its own popularity. Its role should be to work diligently, with little fanfare, to make decisions that might positively affect its constituents. Last year’s efforts to reopen the A-level and bring back Plan B to the SCC are examples of how SG can use its role to support students.

The promotion also underscores a significant point about the nature of SGFC and the Student Activities Fee from which the Committee gets its money; specifically, that the Student Activities Fee, as its name suggests, is best served by funding student activities. Rather than splurging on a gratuitous caffeine boost, SGFC could allocate that $900 to some of the dozens of Registered Student Organizations that are left shortchanged.

Offering complimentary coffee, may, on some level, be a benefit to student welfare. But so would providing any number of free items. That rationale alone cannot suffice as justification for pouring money into such a project, particularly when coffee is widely available throughout campus (even until 3 a.m. at Bart Mart). Suggestions that the proposal is aimed at benefiting student coffee shops rings similarly hollow: With much of the student body flooding into the Reg, Ex Libris will likely have no trouble filling its coffers during finals week, nor did they approach SG seeking financial assistance.

Today, SGFC will decide whether to grant the request for the free-coffee promotion. We urge SGFC members to vote no on the proposal and allocate the money to events that will truly benefit student life.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and two additional Editorial Board members.