Split SA approves $20,000 for dorms
Despite heated debate among its members, the Student Assembly passed a resolution almost unanimously last night to allocate $20,000 toward the improvement of dormitory public spaces and form a committee to determine how the money will be distributed.
The fund distribution committee-- dubbed the Dormitory Improvement Group -- will be composed of 14 Assembly members and two representatives from the Office of Residential Life. The Assembly and ORL will each contribute $10,000 to the fund.
The resolution stems from a survey of the student body that found two-thirds of students in favor of using student activities money to make improvements to dormitory social areas.
Although most Assembly members professed their support for a student-initiated improvement of their living spaces, the debate revealed real differences of opinion among Assembly members over how to fairly determine "democratic representation" and whether the Assembly should make up for the College's budget shortfalls by contributing its own money to dorm upkeep traditionally done by ORL.
Proponents of the plan said that the resolution gives students an unprecedented opportunity to affect their living environment and allows the Assembly to have a substantive impact on students.
"I can't think of anything better that our money should go to besides improving day-to-day life for students," Student Body Vice President Julia Hildreth '05 said.
However, a small but vocal minority argued that the Assembly should not fund improvements that should be the responsibility of ORL.
"I'm not against the idea of student funds being used, but maybe the impetus should be placed on the administration," Parliamentarian Karim Marshall '03 said.
But Anand and others said that a key aspect of the resolution is that it calls for significant student involvement in their own social spaces.
"Very few Assemblies in the past have made policy decision that have actually influenced the administration to make changes," Anand said. "We can pass all the resolutions we want telling ORL to do this, but it doesn't mean anything is going to happen."
Other Assembly members complained that the proposal-evaluation committee is disproportionately weighted toward freshmen and worried that upperclass dorms would not receive their fair share of the funding.
The resolution stipulates that 11 of the 14 Assembly members on the committees be cluster representatives, who are by definition first-year students.
Lucas Nikkel '05 presented an amendment asking for more upperclass representatives on the committee, but only five Assembly members voted in favor of it. The others said they trusted the committee to make decisions that are in the best interests of the whole campus.
"It isn't an issue that breaks down across class lines -- every dorm is going to have a say," Ralph Davies '05 said, adding that freshmen dorms are often most in need of improvement.
Finally, some Assembly members questioned whether $20,000 is enough money to make significant improvements. The sponsors of the resolution quickly countered that they expect the fund to grow in future years and that the resolution represents a good start.
Just because we can't do everything doesn't mean we shouldn't do something," Jim Baehr '05 said. "Considering that we sometimes spend a thousand dollars on events that people don't go to and the UFC certainly spends thousands on events people don't go to, I think that this is a really good use of our money."
The Assembly will contribute $5,000 to the fund this fall, and, pending approval by the Undergraduate Finance Committee this spring, will donate another $5,000 later this year.
Baehr, who initially conceived the project as a way to improve dilapidated fraternity basements, said he is pleased with how the resolution turned out.
"It's not what I originally hoped for, but compromise is the nature of politics," he said. "It's cool to see that SA can actually affect positive change."