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UA, GSC Must Keep Funding Powers

By Stacey E. Blau, David D. Hsu, and Dan McGuire

The proposal to create a Central Allocations Board that would assume the functions of the Undergraduate Association and Graduate Student Council finance boards is a disturbing one that raises larger questions of the autonomy and rightful powers of student government. The board should certainly not be created, and the UA and GSC should retain their funding powers.

There is little doubt that activities funding needs reform. For starters, there is some overlap between the UA and GSC and which groups they should funding. There is also the problem of double-dipping, where groups receiving money from student government also try to get money from deans, schools, and departments. Groups should not be allowed to take money from the relative pittance of funds that student government has if those groups already receive sufficient funding elsewhere. In particular, a number of cultural activities have engaged in this practice, a problem the UA finance board should move to resolve.

But these problems are not nearly sufficient reason to steal from student government one of its fundamental powers. Distribution of funds to student activities is one of the few powers that the UA, in particular, has been left with as it has grown gradually weaker over the years. It seems a natural and rightful power of student government to distribute money to student activities, and to take that power away would be a dangerous mistake.

A decision to create a central board must come from student government itself - not from deans or a re-engineering team - if student government is to be autonomous. The UA and GSC have both expressed that they are opposed to such a board. A decision to override their will, placing them instead in an as yet unknown, undefined organization, would constitute a significant blow to their autonomy and and should not be attempted.

It also seems likely that administrators would sit on any sort of central board; it is difficult to imagine that schools and the provost would be willing to hand over to a totally student-controlled board additional tens of thousands of dollars that they reserve to distribute themselves. But giving such an administrative-sanctioned and partly administrative-controlled board the power to allocate funds that the UA and GSC currently disburse is a dangerous move toward increased administrative control of money that students should and have traditionally had power over.

The $40,000 set aside for the new allocations board should go to the UA and GSC, and MIT should think seriously about giving the two organizations more money if student government is to grow in power, responsibility, and usefulness.