At this Sunday’s meeting of the ASCMC Executive Board, Social Affairs Chair Mark Blumenfeld ‘14 announced that White Party has been cancelled and its funding removed from the budget. The Board debated the proposed budget and tabled it after an hour of discussion without agreeing on a recommendation.
After a ten-minute session in closed minutes, Blumenfeld stated that “ASCMC has unanimously voted to excise the White Party as a line-item in the budget,” explaining that the event has an association with “dangerous behaviors” and has been “mismanaged in terms of funds.” He added that the student body should not expect ASCMC to spend $30,000 on “a party that could have significant losses.” Last spring, the net expense of White Party to ASCMC was around $17,000.
Following Blumenfeld’s statement, Chief Financial Officer Jasmine DiLucci ‘14 presented the Budget Committee’s proposal. DiLucci said the committee “worked hard to make sure it was a more genuine budget that accurately reflects the expenses for the year.” The income from student fees increased to $300,000 this year, but there were also losses from the Ayer yearbook and other remaining deficits from last year totaling $14,000. After removing the line-item expense for White Party, the committee reallocated the party’s $13,000 budget to fund other spring parties.
The budget also included a contested “Rainy Day Fund” of $10,000 for unforeseen expenses, an item that was added to the budget last term by former ASCMC President Aditya Pai ‘13. The entire fund was spent last year.
“I don’t agree with it,” said Blumenfeld, explaining that fee-paying students “will never see that distributed to themselves.” He added that the fund “presents a certain moral hazard. We should be accountable for our failures.” Said Blumenfeld, “I will vote against that budget” unless the rainy day fund, a “civil injustice,” is reduced or removed.
While Blumenfeld was concerned that seniors would pay for expenses incurred after they graduated, DiLucci argued that the current freshmen are already “paying for previous years” by “paying an extra $14,000 for yearbook losses,” since the new budget has to account for the leftover deficit from last year. ASCMC President Gavin Landgraf ’14 added that “last year’s seniors and students got the benefit beyond what $300,000 actually represents” since ASCMC “ran on a huge deficit last year.”
Describing the rainy day fund as “insurance,” DiLucci stated that “ultimately, we’re going to overspend,” and that ASCMC should “be strict, but at the end of the day, there are things we have to pay that no amount of discipline will fix.”
The next challenge to the budget came from Dorm Activities Chair Ben Tillotson ’15. “I’m very disappointed with this budget and plan to vote against it,” said Tillotson. “The constitution was changed last year to slash dorm budgets in half. As it stands, the dorms don’t have the money to foster the community we want to.” Specifically, Tillotson stated that he was “given verbal assurance” by members of the Budget Committee that they would treat the dorm competition as a priority, and “under these assurances I went forward with it,” but there was no additional funding allocated for the competition in the budget. “If this budget goes forward, it will be cancelled,” said Tillotson.
When Landgraf asked Tillotson what he would cut in order to increase dorm funding, Tillotson cited the rainy day fund, but stated that he would need to look more closely at the budget to identify alternative sources. He also stressed the importance of increasing dorm funding since “these are student fees and dorms are the most direct and fair way” for students to benefit from that payment. Dorm funds are allocated for students living off-campus as well as on-campus.
Blumenfeld suggested that the rainy day fund could be eliminated if ASCMC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, got a line of credit. Landgraf disagreed with the suggestion, stating that “we’d use it, run a deficit, and new students will be using their student fees to pay off that line of credit at an expense.” Landgraf asserted that a line of credit, not the rainy day fund, would be the moral hazard.
Towards the end of the discussion, the board considered a suggestion from Freshman Class President Austin Landgraf ’17 to periodically reduce the rainy day fund as the events with the largest liabilities pass. President Gavin Landgraf proposed reducing the rainy day fund by $2,000 if the final expenses from Monte Carlo fall within the expected range. The Board did not come to a consensus for a budget recommendation by the end of the meeting, and the discussion was tabled.