SGA sends recommended student fees budget back to drawing board

Andrew Linnabary

If proposed student fees budget cuts are approved, Mikrokosmos, Wichita State’s literary journal, may soon be printing its last publication.

“This is one of the oldest creative writing programs in the nation,” said Kayla Haas, editor of Mikrokosmos. “We’re 12th oldest; it’s over 60 years old. You’re letting history and part of the literary community die,” Haas said.

Wednesday night, Student Government Association debated the proposed 2017 student fees budget, which was presented by the student fees committee at the last meeting, March 2.

Decisions on the budget were debated amongst the senators, and SGA ultimately voted against the recommended budget, sending it back to the committee to reconsider.

The student fees budget for fiscal year 2017 totals more than $9.3 million, which is about $380,000 less than last year’s budget.

Mikrokosmos is one of the organizations suggested to receive zero or significantly reduced funding.

“I understand being completely cut is difficult, but at the same time, cuts have to be made in some places,” SGA Senator Paige Huntgate said during Wednesday’s meeting.

Mikrokosmos received $2,700 for their budget last fiscal year, and this year requested $6,000.

“We need more time,” Haas said Wednesday. “So if we can deny this budget and go back to the drawing board … that’s what I’d like to propose.”

Mariah Smith, SGA treasurer and member of the student fees committee, said the cuts are necessary because of an extreme reduction in credit hours.

“We weren’t so much discussing the merit of the organizations as discussing whether or not we believe, ‘Is this the correct budget area that this organization should fall into to sustain funding for the future?” Smith said. “All the decisions were made as a team. It was very difficult to be the spokesperson for the team, but most of them were group decisions and we felt very united at the end.”

Senator Paul Brink proposed Wednesday to take $10,000 from SGA’s budget — the student fees committee recommended allocating more than $280,000 to SGA — to keep afloat the completely defunded organizations. Brink’s proposal was shot down by the Senate.

“I know that puts us in a little bit of tightness but that will help alleviate the pressure on some other organizations,” Brink said.

“No matter how you look at it, this is a year of sacrifices,” Senator Tyler Bird said. “We are an Innovation Campus, and as SGA senators we should be innovative. If that means taking cuts ourselves, that’s fine. We’ll make do. We’re here to make choices. So let’s make the right choices.”

At one point, the meeting strayed off-topic to a previous diversity conference, prompting Smith to interrupt and call the board.

“I don’t feel this pertains to how we’re spending our money here, and I don’t want to see senators talk toward each other in such a way,” she said. “It’s making me very uncomfortable. Clearly this is a discussion that needs to happen in private between two people.”

Baja, an engineering car-building program since the early ‘90s, had a budget of $22,000 last fiscal year. They requested $33,000 this year, and the student fees committee proposed that Baja’s funding be reduced to zero.

Mo Khan, captain of the Baja team and a mechanical engineering senior, said Baja gets 95 percent of its funding through SGA.

“It would be very hard to recover,” Khan said. “We’re running out of external sponsors to step up our efforts.”

Khan attended the meeting Wednesday and said he was happy with the turnout.

“I think we can say it’s good that they rejected the budget,” he said. “We made our point this week and last week as to why Baja should not be cut.”

Another proposed cut is to the College of Fine Arts programming, dropping from $78,000 to $35,000. The committee also recommended cutting about 30 percent of Shocker Sound’s budget, a $28,000 reduction.

Student Body President Joseph Shepard said the recommended budget has been accepted the past two years, but that it was a good idea to shoot it down this year.

“Had we voted in favor of this budget, the fine arts department would have been cut drastically. Mikrokosmos, a 60-year organization, would have been cut fully. Baja, which does so much to recruit and retain students for the engineering college, would have been cut, as well. It also allows us to sit down with the Athletic Department and ask if they are willing to fund Shocker Sound,” Shepard said.

The student fees budget process will repeat until it is approved by SGA. When approved, the budget will be presented to WSU President John Bardo.

“I think it was a long process, but I think ultimately the senators had their voice,” Brink said. “We’re going to go back and find something that works.”

— Contributing: Shelby Reynolds of The Sunflower