SFC Responds to Stipend Concerns

Student Finance Committee

To the Editors:

Last spring, the Student Finance Committee voted to allocate fewer stipended hours than requested by The Oberlin Review, among other organizations, than in previous years. In order to ensure that the student body is accurately informed, the SFC feels compelled to respond to recent criticisms of this decision published in the Review (“SFC Cuts Hurt Quality, Accessibility of Publications,” The Oberlin Review, Oct. 3, 2014). We welcome all comments, questions, criticisms and ideas that help improve the quality of life on this campus, but we are concerned when opinions are framed as facts and not all the information is presented.

Some of the problems that the Review found with the SFC’s decision include that “the Committee has failed to understand the consequences its decision will have on the quality and accessibility of campus publications,” and that the Review’s stipends were based on a “willfully ignorant and biased decision-making process.” We’d like to take this time to respond to these comments.

• The Review is one of only seven organizations out of 130 organizations on campus that receives stipends.

• The Review is still receiving stipend funds in addition to money for their organization’s programming and functioning. The Review receives the fourth largest budget at $37,103.20, which does not include the additional $15,600 in advertisement revenue.

• 60.66 percent of the Review’s budget is allocated to stipends.

• The SFC informed via email both the entire student body and also the treasurers of all organizations about the more explicit rules of the new stipend policy a week after it was passed in February 2014. The new policy did not fundamentally change stipends, but gave more concrete guidelines in order to make the SFC more accountable and make its decisions more clear less arbitrary.

• The SFC allocated in full to the Review’s printing and services requests, and cannot take responsibility for what the Review’s Oct. 3 editorial calls the “dangerous financial situation.”

• The stipends the Review now receives are similar to those of other comparable student organizations, such as The Grape.

• The SFC does not provide hourly wages. We aim to subsidize time and work to help organizations make positions accessible.

As part of student government, we do our best to act in the best interest of the student body as a whole. We object to the Review’s claim that we have been unresponsive and uncommunicative, and would like to remind readers that we have met and continue to meet to discuss stipend policy with members of the Review. The SFC holds office hours open to all students every weekday, establishes working groups with individual student organizations and sends out an annual referendum, as well as draws upon the experiences of its seven appointed members to try to understand the interests of the student body. Students have expressed through these channels that traditionally underfunded groups should be receiving more money and that too much Student Activity money is going towards stipends. To respond to the concerns of the student body while still keeping stipended organizations accessible, the SFC tried to compromise by reducing the Review’s stipends from $39,061.60 in fiscal year 2014 to $31,967.85 in fiscal year 2015.

The SFC made this decision with the goal of increasing the quality and diversity of programming on campus. We appreciate and understand the necessity to keep organizations like the Review accessible, as they provide unique journalism outlets on this campus. Yet we are limited by the amount of money we can allocate and unfortunately cannot fund every organization in full. Students from all organizations put in countless hours to make events and opportunities on this campus happen; nearly all students accomplish this work without compensation. Our hope is to best support all students in their efforts to create better opportunities on this campus by providing them with the resources that reflect their programming goals.

We have heard the editorial’s calls for the SFC to be held accountable. As stated above, the seven appointed members hold office hours, publish minutes from our discussions, send out an annual referendum and ensure our policy and ad hoc meetings are open to the public. We welcome constructive criticism to improve our ability to serve the student body. Unfortunately, we feel that the Review’s editorial was vague and polarizing. We are committed to resolving the issues regarding funding which students encounter, and wish to focus on more constructive dialogue.

If any students have questions about the Student Finance Committee and our allocation decisions, please feel free to reach out to us. Our website is http://ocsites.oberlin.edu/studentfinancecommittee/; we can be reached at our email, [email protected], and we hold office hours from 12–2 p.m. on Monday, 11 a.m.–12 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. on Wednesday, 1–2 p.m. on Thursday and 11 a.m.–1 p.m. on Friday in Wilder 316.

–The Student Finance Committee

Editor’s Note: According to the Review’s calculations, 52.38 percent of the paper’s annual budget is allocated toward stipends, rather than 60.66 percent.