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College Council Cancels Stein

By Tiffany Han Posted: 03/20/2009
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College Council decided on Wednesday to cancel a speaker event featuring actor and conservative political commentator Ben Stein because the elimination of University co-sponsorships and rise in funding demands from student groups imposed additional financial pressures.

The Council will be subject to a cancellation fee, which College Council President Elizabeth Farrar said is still in the process of being negotiated. The fee will be a substantial amount, though the exact figure is confidential, contractual information.

Farrar said the Council feels that paying the fee but having the remainder of the money freed up for student organizations was the best option.
The money from their self-generated account will contribute to at least part of the cancellation fee, she said.

The self-generated account is a side account that is separate from the regular budget, which stems from student activity fees paid at the beginning of each semester.

The money in the self-generated account mostly comes from the money that clubs give back to the Council when they disband. Farrar said the funds in the self-generated account are not used often and are usually withdrawn for internal purposes, such as replenishing office supplies.

The Council signed a contract with Stein in February. Since then, the academic departments have announced that they will no longer co-sponsor any external events on campus. Farrar said that in the past, the Council has received on average 25 percent of their event funding from co-sponsorships by academic departments. Expecting this support when the contract was signed, the Council had to reevaluate when they realized they would not receive supplementary funding.

“A lot of our fundraising prospects have been obliterated,” she said.

Farrar said that academic co-sponsorships comprised a majority of the fundraising in the past, although University offices also contributed at times.

Coupled with the increasing demand for funding from student organizations, she said, the budget has become tighter. Because students also cannot receive funding from academic departments, their ability to self-generate has significantly declined. As a result, more students seek funds from the Council, she said.

According to Farrar, the Council has had a large surplus in their contingency fund, which mandates a $10,000 account minimum at all times, for the past two years.

“It was not appropriate for us to have a surplus,” she said, explaining that the student activity fees should not sit idle but should be spent towards student events and organizations.

Farrar said the Council has endeavored to “spend down the surplus” throughout the past two years and is now close to leveling out. She said two-thirds of the surplus was spent last year, and the remaining one-third this year.

Without this surplus, Farrar said the Council would have to be mindful of its spending but will not have to cut back on much programming.

Both the shuttle programs and the newspaper program will only be mildly affected, she said.

Dooley Direct shuttles, which have received additional support from the Division of Campus Life, and Emory Experience shuttles will run as they did before, she said. Shuttles running to Lenox will now stop at 7 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.

At last night’s meeting, the Council legislature began scrutinizing the budget, Farrar said, and made cuts to food requests for student receptions.

The Council’s newspaper program, which provides free copies of the New York Times, USA Today and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to students at locations around campus, will also continue running. There will now be fewer copies of the newspapers distributed, Farrar said. The exact number can be determined on a day-by-day basis and will depend on how fast people pick up copies from different locations.

Since November, the Council has not sent in a payment for the newspaper program, which bills them at regular intervals.

Farrar said funds were appropriated for the newspaper program at the beginning of the year, adding that the payment delay does not affect the budget.

“For the past two years, we’ve been using money, spending down the surplus. Now, we need to maintain our budget and spend conservatively,” she said. “It’s a departure from how we’ve had to act, but we are not in an alarming situation.”
Farrar said that this is the first time the Council is feeling the effects of the recession. She added that being “more fiscally responsible” than before can be good for the organization.

“There will be a mindset change, but this is a good change. The level of our resources has changed, and we’re prepared to handle that,” Farrar said.

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