Op-Ed: A Greek’s view on Student Association funding cuts

You can probably expect some Student Association senators to demand that the finance committee justifies its steep cuts to the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association at Monday night’s allocations meeting. But however drastic the cuts might seem, this was a necessary decision.

It is true that this was the second consecutive cut in allocations to IFC and Panhel, down from $25,000 each this past year and $32,500 the previous year. But if you look back to the 2010-2011 academic year, the IFC received just $3,500 in SA funding for the entire year. Although Panhel’s allocation was significantly higher, its single largest expense for the year by far was fall recruitment, as it always has been.

As an active member of Greek life and brother in Beta Theta Pi, I can say with confidence that IFC’s nearly tenfold increase in allocations from the 2010-2011 year to the 2011-2012 year had virtually no bearing on my experience. The cuts incurred this year similarly didn’t affect my experience, and this last set of cuts will have no appreciable impact on the vast majority of our Greek life members.

What makes or breaks a student’s Greek experience? It’s not Greek Week or a handful of mandatory IFC and Panhel-sponsored anti-hazing speakers or a weekend trip to a leadership conference that may or may not get a financial subsidy from one of the Greek umbrella groups.

Individual chapters create their Greek success stories through philanthropy, social events and opportunities to forge friendships that far outlast any programming that takes place during the year. And those things, by and large, do not get funded by the SA.

Greek life will not cease to function properly without a huge chunk of money from the SA. Individual chapters are almost entirely self-funded.

Take a look at Panhellenic recruitment and ask yourself whether student tuition dollars should pay for it. For three days, other student groups are severely limited in their ability to hold events in the Marvin Center because so much of the building is occupied by recruitment. Tons of money is spent putting up sisters of individual chapters at a hotel so they can allegedly remain neutral throughout the process and focus on recruitment for Greek life as a whole – as if staying in a hotel would prevent them from using their phones, listservs, Facebook or any other means of communication with their chapters during the process.

Then, of course, there are the damage fees that the Marvin Center charges Panhel after meeting rooms are left in horrible condition following recruitment weekend. There is no reason why such a huge chunk of money should be taken away from other student organizations for an obscenely expensive event that only benefits a small, specific segment of the student body.

If the money doesn’t come from the SA, it will come from somewhere else.

Of course, this is not meant to be a tirade against sorority recruitment. Panhellenic recruitment is just one of many examples of unnecessary and inefficient spending by our Greek umbrella groups. The question we need to ask is this: What kinds of projects truly warrant a subsidy from student tuition dollars? If you ask me or anyone else who has seen the full breadth of SA-funded student programming, I have no doubt that we can be much smarter and much fairer with our SA budget. If the allocations bill passes in its present form tonight, we will have taken an important step toward that end.

Regardless of IFC and Panhel’s allocations, Greek life will continue to grow and thrive as it has every year, and Greek students will continue to look fondly upon their experiences and cite them as some of their most cherished memories at GW.

John Bennett is the former chair of the Student Association Senate Finance Committee.

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