By: Judah Stiefel | Features  | 

From the YSU Vice President’s Desk: Cash Back - What to do with the Student Activities Budget Surplus

Before reading this article, you should know that I did my job on student council so well this year that it will not exist next year. Only joking. The YSU Vice President of Classes has about as much power as the Vice President of the United States. That being said, time on student council has provided me with unique insight into the mechanics of the YU student government. I’m here to talk to you about how we choose to spend our money; specifically, our student activities budget.

Currently, the student activities fee is $250 a year, charged to students separately from tuition. Of that money, Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) was given $77,589 to spend this year. As of February 13th, only $23,297 has been spent. While some of the remaining $50,000 has been designated for various causes, there is still a great amount waiting for allotment. The Yeshiva College Student Association (YCSA) is faced with a similar situation, having a great amount of undesignated money left over in its budget. The question each of these student councils must ask themselves is how to spend the money and with what considerations to approach these decisions.

While funding choices may seem trivial, trends in YSU spending are highly suggestive of student priorities within our university. Much of the spending has gone towards food and supplies for events. A rough budget this year allotted $30,439 to dining services, with only $10,841 being spent so far. The next highest allotment was for “general supplies,” a nonspecific category which was expected to cost approximately $22,737. The rest of the budget was allocated accordingly, with $7,000 for transportation, $4,600 for housekeeping and $4,000 for security.

While this may seem odd or trivial, there’s nothing wrong with this. One of the most important roles the student council embodies is an enabler for student vision. Students who have visions for a specific event can rely on the student government to provide them with the funding necessary to make that vision a reality. If students ask for programming that mainly consists of food, then the student governments should honor those requests. The larger question, as posed earlier, is what student government should do with the excess money it has in its budget.

The surplus from the YCSA budget is being invested in swag giveaways. YCSA decided that what students might appreciate most would be tasteful apparel that would be classy enough for students to wear proudly and on a regular basis. A similar approach was taken last year, when $8,000 was spent on sweatpants; but with an entire day already dedicated to swag, is this really the best use of our money?

As for the YSU surplus, it is still unclear where that money will go. It’s possible we will take the YCSA approach and spend it on free food and more swag. One student council member even suggested jokingly that we do cash giveaways, sending the money back to the students. But I can’t help but wonder what could have been if the money was requested by clubs for special events and activities. There’s always room to improve life on campus. Students were not restricted in running events. More could have been run, in which case more funding would have been provided.

You may ask, however, “Why don’t you do these things? You seem to be in the best position to run beneficial events.” The answer is, you’re right, and I’ve often asked myself this same question. There’s always more to be done. The answer I’ve arrived at seems to apply to the condition of the YU student in general. The dual curriculum really does take up a massive amount energy. Additionally, students are encouraged to get involved in numerous clubs and initiatives. It’s easy to spread oneself too thin, getting stretched in each direction by classes, tests and ten other extracurriculars at once. Instead of getting caught up in a million different things, we should focus on fewer individual responsibilities, pouring more energy into specific causes we can be passionate about. Doing one or two things right can speak much louder than putting minimal time into eight different clubs.

From a practical standpoint, there is a great deal of time left in the year. If you have a big idea you want to enact, now is the time to do it. Propose bold events and they might be funded. Alternatively, approach a student council member and tell them your idea. On a small campus like our own, one person’s passion can go a long way. Reach out to speakers. Run a paint night. Find the thing you care most about. The student council can help you achieve it… or… you can have another pair of blue YU sweatpants.


Photo Caption: Cake Wars, one of the many YSU-sponsored events.
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University