By Janelle Harb
Due to the significant decrease in enrollment from the class of 2021 and lower retention rate of upperclassmen, a campus-wide shift has occurred. This shift has not only affected administration and the number of faculty hired at the College, but also the Undergraduate Student Association (USA) and its budget.
USA is able to allocate funds to student clubs and organizations through revenue generated from the “student tax,” a $218 fee added to the bills of all undergraduate students each semester. Historically, this amount has accumulated over a million dollars. This year, however, the amount was nearly $120,000 less than what has been projected, due to the significantly lower number of students enrolled. As a result, the Student Senate and USA Finance Board have been forced to tighten the budgets of many clubs, and even cut their own budget by nearly $10,000.
This comes with the Finance Board’s recent decision to discontinue the previous “tiered” budget system. In the past, clubs were allotted a lump sum of dollars to be used for the extent of the entire academic year. The lowest-tier budget was $500, and the highest, endorsed club, budgets could be anything beyond $10,000.
“When first we rolled out the lump sum allocation [last year], a lot of clubs were just misallocated,” President of Business and Finance Connor Rosenecker, ‘18 explained. “What I found was that a lot of clubs were in the middle of two tiers, so it was difficult to discern what tier they should fit into.”
While clubs such as the Afro-American Society, Unity, and the Teacher Education Club have incurred cuts to their budgets, various other clubs have enjoyed substantial boosts to their funding. For example, Veg Club has had their budget doubled and Students for Life, USA President Amelia Greenan’s own club, will enjoy a budget eight times larger than that of the year before.
In an effort to allot more accurate funds to clubs, Rosenecker went through every club’s budget and determined a lump sum that would be appropriate to according to their last three years of spending. Rosenecker went on to explain that he felt this would result in fair treatment for all clubs, and also a more conscientious and conservative way of distributing USA’s funds. In his analysis, Rosenecker did not take into account club travel expense, speakers, or capital investments, as a way to encourage clubs to appeal.
“I had to cut expenses based on which impacted the student body most,” Rosenecker stated. “For example, one of the things we cut from this year’s [USA] budget is the paper-only readership prescriptions we had…. In the past, we only subscribed to the USA Today, a couple of the local bees, and [the] New York Times. For the most part, we felt like we weren’t causing detriment to the student experience if we cut that expense.”
In addition to this, Rosenecker was able to negotiate a better price for the NFTA metro passes that every student receives as a result of USA, as well as cut the budget for Senior Week, as this only impacts seniors and not the entire student body.
As far as initial allocations to clubs go, Rosenecker explained that these had been cut very minimally in comparison to other areas. “I think the reason for that,” he said, “is because I truly believe in the impact that student organizations have on this campus in ways that USA can’t, in ways that I can’t with USA’s money. They come up with ideas that are so impactful for the students that USA or Student Life never would be able to, and that’s something we really enjoy being able to support.”
Rosenecker went on to explain that one of his goals as VPBF is to encourage all clubs that they can have an impact on the student body, no matter the size of their budget. In addition to encouraging club leaders to engage their members to the fullest in order to retain people, as well as have more of a community outreach.
“Even if a club’s allocation was significantly lower than last year, that does not signify that I believe less in the club,” Rosenecker said. “It means that I believe that the club can be just as successful, if not even more successful, this year with the funding that I gave them.”
In addition to supporting clubs, Rosenecker also hopes to increase transparency and communication between financial operations and stature of USA and the student body. In an effort to do this, he is going to implement a time period from half an hour to an hour during the week for any student to schedule a meeting and ask any questions they may have about the USA capital budget or its finances.
Another change to USA’s finances that Rosenecker has enacted is having each member of the Finance Board act as a portfolio manager for a small number of clubs. In this way, they can act as a budget analyst for that club, as well as become a financial resource and support system for the club no matter its size.
Despite a seemingly smooth transition to these new changes, there still remains an air of uncertainty for the future of Canisius College. As administration slashes budgets, cuts back on faculty, and sells College property, student leaders are next to feel the heat.
However, in the face of adversity, these student leaders have remained steadfast.
“This does not change any plans for Afro,” stated Clarise Simmons, President of the Afro-American Society. “This budget cut will not affect our ability to make a positive impact on the lives of the students at Canisius College. Our mission is unity [and] racial harmony, and we will do that despite any budget cuts.”
As Canisius continues to emphasize the student experience obtained at a small private college, as opposed to a larger public university, it is becoming increasingly difficult for such experiences to occur due to financial constraints.
“I wish there could be more money for me to support the student experience as much as I’d like to, but at the end of the day, do I feel happy with the decisions that I’ve made? Yes,” Rosenecker concluded.