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Show me the money

Many student organizations were surprised and disappointed by decreases in funding of up to $32,000 after the Student Services Fee Advisory Committee made their allocations.

Some clubs were unsure if they would even be able to operate normally, but all of that is about to change.

Every student at Tyler Junior College pays $2 per credit hour each semester to fund student activities. Various organizations make proposals on how they feel the money should be distributed each semester to The Student Services Fee Advisory Committee (SSFAC), who then makes recommendations to the vice president of Student Affairs.

The committee’s voting members are made up entirely of students.

For the fall term, the Student Life Fee account contained $216,112 and is conservatively projected to total $355,000 for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Last year, the student life fee collected approximately $399,000, not $500,000 as has been previously reported. SSFAC kept $29,936 (unaudited) of this in a separate account as a reserve, and they kept $3,178 from the 2007-2008 year.

For the fall term, 28 organizations requested $526,299.02 in funding, and SSFAC allocated $141,623.35 to organizations.

Dr. Bob Riley, the former vice president of Student Affairs, “set aside” $60,000 to pay for the fall concert held by the Center for Student Life and Involvement/Apache Activities Council before a single proposal was heard, according to Regina Williams, Student Affairs Administrative Assistant.

Riley made plans to “set aside” $60,000 again for the spring concert and $55,000 for the Leadership Retreat for the Center for Student Life and Involvement/Apache Activities Council before proposals are heard in the spring.

Justin Yordy, SSFAC chair and Student Senate president, said the committee was aware of the money set aside before they met. However, that $60,000 was not included in the funds they were allowed to distribute

There are requirements that every organization must meet to make a proposal to SSFAC, but the committee looks for specific things in the proposal to decide which organizations should get more money.

“Every organization, when they ask for money, has to meet the three promises of TJC,” SSFAC Secretary Jeff Smith said. “We also look to see if there’s a way that they can do fundraisers, and we delegate on who we fell needs the most money throughout the year. If they go on trips or if they do events, that’s how we allocate the money.”

Some organizations received significantly less than what they requested from the committee or nothing at all, with little to no explanation. Money was given to some clubs for T-shirts, office supplies and food, while others were turned down for what they saw as necessary expenditures.

One organization disappointed by the outcome was Phi Rho Pi, the Speech and Debate Club.

“I am very disappointed, because we received such a large cut from previous years. You shoot for the moon, and you hope to at least get to the mountain tops,” Phi Rho Pi Sponsor M’Liss Hindman said. “They [SSFAC] asked me which tournaments we could cut. I told them how important each of them were, but that obviously I understood if they had to cut one or two tournaments, but in essence, they have cut out our entire spring semester.”

Phi Ro Pi had planned to attend four speech and debate tournaments this semester, but has had to downsize to two. The team consists of 15 students, but only seven to 10 are actually able to travel to the tournaments because of the cut in funding.

“I have students here ready to be trained. Most of them have been recruited to TJC specifically to be members of Phi Rho Pi and on the competition team,” Hindman said. “And I may have to cut the traveling down. Some of those students that haven’t gotten a chance to travel may not get a chance.”

Hindman said for the time being Phi Rho Pi is looking into fundraising techniques and will submit a proposal again in the spring for additional funding. Hindman also said she would like to know why their funding was cut so severely so that the problem can be resolved in the future.

A decrease in funding doesn’t just affect what the organization does each semester; it also affects the future of its members.

“For us, it gives kids a chance for scholarships for four-year universities,” Hindman said. “It’s their life.”

Phi Rho Pi received one gold, two silver and five bronze places at Phi Rho Pi Nationals last April. The TJC Indoor Drumline won the open division of the 2008 Winter Guard International Indoor Drumline World Championships, but wasn’t allocated any funds this semester.

“It just surprised me when there was nothing,” said Tom McGowan, associate director of bands and TJC Indoor Drumline sponsor. “We explained how TJC and the kids benefit from having this group. I don’t know another group on campus that carried a world championship title.”

When the drumline asked why they didn’t receive any funds, they were told it was because they have a departmental budget.

However, the letter each organization received from the committee also states, “This committee was charged with making responsible, viewpoint-neutral recommendations for awarding fees to supplement student organizational, academic, and departmental budgets.”

Also, many of the other organizations that received funding have departmental budgets, including the Center for Student Life and Involvement, which has a budget of $301,484 and received the most money from SSFAC.

The Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) saw a $6,000 cut in funding from last year, and is struggling with the fragile economy.

“It was a surprise, what I asked for and what I received,” Director of BSM Mark Jones said. “The first year I asked for $1,000, and I got $2,000. The next year I asked for $10,000 and I got $10,000. I was told to ask for the same, and it would be fine. I asked for the same amount and got less.”

Approximately 11,000 students at TJC and 6,000 students at The University of Texas at Tyler take advantage of the free lunch and fellowship BSM provides.

“We do a really good job involving a lot of students. When it comes to weekly gatherings, outside of athletics, we have more students involved than any other organization,” Jones said.

Voices of Worship President Felisa Young hoped to receive more money from SSFAC, but felt the decision was fair.

“We could make up for it, but we will have to work really hard. Anything is possible. If my members want to, they can,” Young said. “We won’t be able to have our annual banquet … unless we raise the money this year.”

Young, like Hindman, also plans to make a proposal again in the spring.

Not every organization was disappointed by the outcome. This was the first year the Agriculture Club made a proposal.

“We were actually thrilled to have an opportunity to seek money, especially with such a small group. We don’t have a lot of money coming in,” Agriculture Club Sponsor Jeannie Lafferty said. “Up until this year, the expenses were just the student’s responsibility. By getting assistance from SSFAC, it will allow more students who maybe might not have the money a better opportunity.”

John Hays, Foreign Language Department chair and Project Costa Rica sponsor, was allocated the same amount as the year before and said he was happy with the amount.

“I would have appreciated a little more time, but if the outcome was in my favor, I can’t really complain,” Hays said. “Would I have liked to have double, yes, but it was very much fair.”

To help the organizations who did not receive enough funding this semester, TJC President Dr. Michael Metke will offer additional funding to organizations who saw drastic cuts.

“We aren’t going to take any money away from anybody, but if there are any that were devastated… lets go back and look at those on a case by case and see what we can do so that they can continue to operate,” Metke said. “The people who were awarded now are depending on theirs, but
maybe what we can do is institutionally see where we can alleviate some of the pain.”

Metke, along with Richard Minter, the interim vice president of Student Affairs, plan to change the SSFAC process and committee, including adding faculty and staff member and enforcing new regulations on funding cuts.

“We are in compliance with our own rules, but we need to change our own policies and procedures and try to make them more representative of the best practices,” Metke said.

Organizations will also be able to submit proposals again in the spring for additional funding.

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