A small committee of students and faculty get together each semester to decide how $78,000 of student money is spent. This money comes from the small Student Service Fee seen on each student’s detailed costs and tuition list. For each credit hour there is a $2 fee, with a maximum of $26 per student.
“I attend the sessions, but I don’t vote…I observe,” said Dr. Juan Mejia, vice president of student affairs. Mejia’s office chooses the committee members and oversees deliberations.
The committee is comprised of 10 people. Seven students are selected based on their leadership initiatives and diversity by Regina Williams, the administrative assistant of the office of Student Affairs, with the support of three faculty members. The SSFAC committee hears proposals and then decides which organizations deserve funding based on five-minute presentations.
It is somewhat of a competition. Every club must submit a proposal of how its money will be spent. This money is used for everything from academic necessities, to support programs for athletic teams like the Belles and Cheerleaders for away games, to student interest groups such as the Anime Club and even religious organizations.
The preparation time for the paperwork and proposals can take months, like Fall 2013. This Spring, organizations were allowed less than 24 hours for the paperwork and less than a week afterward to put together the presentation itself.
This spring, the biggest surprise seems to have come in the form of miscommunication and underfunding of academic groups, while religious organizations received far greater funding than many others in the face of drastic cuts to programs that promote the campus’s interests across the state and nation. Many groups have been left scrambling to find ways to fund competitions and conferences where they represent TJC.
“To date we have not received any additional funding. We have had to cut a couple of tournaments. The administration is going to try to help us with our travel to nationals if we are still short on funds,” said M’Liss Hindman, speech professor and faculty sponsor of Phi Rho Pi, the campus speech and forensics team.
All the while, athletic organizations are exempt from the process. These are seen as necessities, while competitions in forensics, speech, journalism, dance and many others are not.
Some faculty sponsors see this as damaging to their groups. While not competing, Students Advocating For Equality, formerly S.A.G.E., is attempting to offer free HIV testing to students among other services. As one of the newer club sponsors on campus, S.A.F.E.’s Professor Melanie Ward has experienced a bit of difficulty with the SSFAC process. Ward was somewhat shocked to find out that it seemed as if the committee had outright denied their funding. Ward wasn’t informed until a week later, when a student approached Dr. Mejia’s office, that funding from Fall 2013 was rolled over to cover their costs this semester.
“Part of the money that rolled over from last semester is to do a free H.I.V. testing for students on campus,” said Melanie Ward, a professor of reading and developmental education. “We feel really strongly about providing that service to the students because if they were to go to a doctor or Planned Parenthood to get an HIV test, it could cost 30-60 and students don’t have it. If you look at the demographic, 18-24 year-olds are the largest growing demographic.”
“Our organization, we have kind of expanded this year…we kind of decided to take on an approach of encompassing all equalities and inequalities. We’re looking at servicing all of the marginalized populations,” said Ward.
S.A.F.E. was not denied funding, rather they experienced a very unusual set of circumstances where the committee rolled over previous, unused funds which normally return to the pool.
“As long as we can get the money and…get everyone situated, as long as we get the cash we’re good. The money we got was a decent bit,” said Geoffrey Traylor, president of the Anime Club. Traylor doesn’t mind the process of seeking funding. His club also holds frequent bake sales to make up any shortfalls.
The Anime Club requested $5,480 to attend Anime Con in Dallas, they received $2,280. Traylor is grateful for the ability to seek funding through this avenue. Anime Con is a convention celebrating the anime art style. It is one of the few non-religious organizations that is completely non-academic in nature.
“(During debriefing) one of the students said, ‘I think we need to strengthen our criteria, that way as organizations are coming in, we know that these are the things that are very important to us and the community,” Mejia said.
Dr Mejia understands how the organizations feel when they face a shortfall in funding, because he goes through a similar process to obtain money for the school. He would recommend that any club that felt they needed more funding should “bring it up the flagpole,” so that he and TJC President, Dr. Metke can help them meet those goals. Mejia wants to ensure that any organization bringing home accolades or recognition for the school gets funding, one way or another.
Going forward, Mejia would like input from students and faculty, through surveys, on what they think the financial priorities for organizations should be.