Last week, 22 of the University of Minnesota’s student cultural centers came together to protest massive budgets cuts. The organizations are asking for more transparency throughout the funding process in addition to the creation of a separate committee designed specifically to fund cultural centers.
Under the current procedures, the Student Services Fees Committee makes funding recommendations to the Board of Regents. The Board’s final recommendations are typically very near to SSFC’s suggestions.
This year’s overall funding for student groups remains similar to last year’s, but groups like the Asian-American Student Union are facing budget cuts of about 64 percent. The Feminist Student Activist Collective faces 53 percent cuts, while funding for La Raza is “historically low,” according to one of the group’s officers.
It’s unsettling to see such dramatic budget cuts for the cultural centers, especially while overall funding for student groups remains level. To that end, we support the call for more transparency in the funding process.
We feel less certain about creating a separate funding committee specifically for cultural groups. SSFC is student-run, not administrative, and, beginning next year, all its members will undergo bias training to promote cultural sensitivity. Calling to create a separate committee demonstrates bad faith in students’ ability to decide how they want to spend their peers’ services fees.
A separate committee could also afford cultural groups unfair economic advantages compared to other student organizations. In order to promote an equitable funding environment, we believe all groups should undergo the same processes to secure money.