May 15, 2015

New SG budget increases graduate student funding

On Monday night, Student Government Assembly approved its $2.18 million budget for the 2015–2016 school year. The largest change from the 2014–2015 budget was a huge increase in funding for graduate students, who received a total budget increase of $72,500.

The increase in funding for graduate students reflects a broader effort by Student Government (SG) to direct more funding and attention to graduate students on campus, who make up 62 percent of the University student population but only 6.7 percent of Student Government’s 2014-2015 budget is targeted toward graduate students, not counting the Student Government Financing Committee (SGFC) budget that funds Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). SGFC is not, however, a major funding source for graduate students because tend to participate less in RSOs. They will receive 9.7 percent of the 2015–2016 budget, again excluding the SGFC budget.

David Shapiro, Class of 2018 representative in College Council, proposed some of the budget amendments that made the shift towards increased graduate funding, which was approved 24–4–1. He indicated that Student Government would continue to frame increasing SG funding as an issue between students and administration, rather than between undergraduates and graduates. He also said that SG would continue to make increasing total funding a priority in the future.

“Graduate students and College students together need to petition the administration to increase the overall Student Government budget. It’s $2.18 million, and pumping up Graduate Council specific funding by at least another $200,000, to get it equitable to at least 50 percent of what we give College students, is definitely something I think the slate next year will be pushing,” Shapiro said. “Rather than fight amongst ourselves over the money we have, we agree we did what we could with the money we have... you have to fight the bigger battle, which is we need more money, period,” Shapiro concluded.

The three main funding bodies for graduate students are Graduate Council, the Graduate Council Travel Fund, and Graduate Mixers. Graduate Council, which funds graduate student travel, research, events, and RSOs, received a funding increase of $55,000 for a total of $115,000. The Graduate Council Travel Fund, which funds travel to conferences and meetings for graduate students, received a funding increase of $10,000 for a total of $40,000. Graduate Mixers, which funds mixer events for graduate students, received a funding increase of $7,500 for a total of $57,500.

The $55,000 of funding for the Graduate Council was made available by cutting $35,000 from the Uncommon Fund, which will now receive only $15,000, and cutting $20,000 from the Coalition of Academic Teams, which includes College Bowl, Debate Society, Mock Trial, Model UN, and the Chess Team, which will now receive $200,000.

Shapiro noted that the combination of the Student Government elections’ focus on graduate student funding and the increasing disparity between graduate and undergraduate funding led this year’s big push.

“When graduate students, the ones that do care, continue to see us pump money year after year after year into these solely undergraduate focused entities, money that greatly outdoes anything we’re giving them, they get infuriated,” said Shapiro. “After a certain point, they were fed up enough, and with the [2015 Student Government] election cycle really emphasizing that anxiety, it brought the graduate students out. They had great attendance and managed to get done what they needed to get done.”

Scroll down to view breakdown of budget changes.