If you really want to get people riled up, there is no easier way than to involve money. The Student Association Finance Committee spends the first part of each school year allocating close to $350,000 in student fee money. Just like with Commencement speaker selections, it would be close to impossible to satisfy every club and organization, but every year a significant portion of the debate seems to boil down to graduate versus undergraduate organizations.
The reason we bring this up in the spring, long before the uproar over allocations unfurls next fall, is that the Finance Committee next year will include six graduate students, out of eight total members. In the past, graduate organizations such as the Student Bar Association have protested their membership in the SA because of funding issues and have considered breaking away.
Since the student fee is paid by grads and undergrads alike, and since the graduate student population makes up slightly more than half the student body, it is understandable that graduate students want their fair share of allocation money. With so many graduate representatives on the Finance Committee, the temptation may be to allocate so that graduate groups get at least as much of the student fee money as they put in.
However, the most important distinction to make between the two types of organizations is that while most undergraduate organizations receiving funding are open to everyone, graduate organizations cater to a very specific niche. For example, the major speakers that the College Democrats and the College Republicans bring to campus attract everyone from freshmen to law students, but the Barrister’s Ball (also known as the Law School prom) is only open to law students.
It would make little sense for most of the grad organizations to include undergraduates. After all, many of their social events focus on building a community within that particular graduate school, and the practical organizations, such as the Law Review, would have no reason to accept undergraduates, even if they wanted to. The graduates are paying the same amount per credit hour to the allocation fund, but they should be open to supporting the undergraduate clubs as well.
Having so many graduate students on the Finance Committee is not necessarily a bad thing. They may be able to judge more impartially which undergraduate organizations deserve the most money, since they will likely have less personal investments in these clubs. The important thing is for the committee to remember that this is not graduates versus undergraduates. Even if each population does not receive what it puts in dollar for dollar, that does not mean the money is not going to good use.
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