Money talks

Elizabeth Campbell

A poll scheduled to be posted today on HereAndNow will allow students to rank where University funds should be spent.

The annual Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee’s poll will use a new point system this year to gain a “truer and better read on what students really want most,” UBPC committee chairman Jonathan Marino said.

In previous years, students ranked the committee’s recommendations in order from first to last. This year students can assign a total of 16 points to different items, giving more points to those they want to have higher priority.

The results of this poll will help the committee decide which items to push for when members make their presentation to administrators Feb. 14, said Marino, a SESP senior.

The UBPC begins researching student needs in the fall. Committee members meet with student group leaders and administrators to get ideas and determine what students want most for their money. E-mails are sent out to every student group to explain the UBPC’s purpose, said committee member Whitney Gretz, a Weinberg junior.

A weeklong “open poll,” in which students could offer as many suggestions as they wanted, went up on HereAndNow in early January, Marino said.

The committee’s presentation to NU’s board of trustees is given the same consideration as other members of the university community, from vice presidents to school deans.

“The students essentially go through the same or similar budget hearing that I do, that the deans do,” said William Banis, vice president for student affairs.

Requests are most likely to succeed when they coincide with administrative priorities, Banis said.

“Where we have common ground is where they have the highest yield,” Banis said.

The creation of a South Campus cafe, the committee’s number one recommendation last year, is “shelved” because of budgetary strains this year, Banis said. But he said its construction is still a possibility in the future.

The UBPC’s work has a real influence on the university’s budget, said Eugene Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance.

Sunshine estimated that more than half of UBPC’s requests over the years have been partially or fully funded but not always in the same year they were originally suggested.

Successful past projects include the creation of an LGBT Resource Center, better equipment for the Sports Pavilion and Aquatic Center and Blomquist Gymnasium, and increased funding for club sports and career services.

Recommendations that have not received support include the creation of an airport shuttle and heated bus shuttle stops on campus.

The committee was first formed in 1998, when students lobbied for a student representative on the board of trustees. Other schools, including Washington University in St. Louis, have student representatives on their boards. Instead NU formed the UBPC, a committee of about 6 students who would “be the student voice in the budget making process,” said Kevin Rodrigues, a Weinberg senior who has served on the committee for the last three years. The committee automatically includes the Associated Student Government president but is not a part of ASG.

UBPC committee member applications are typically posted on HereAndNow in April or May, Marino said. Freshmen and sophomores that are “emerging student leaders” are ideal candidates, Marino said. The committee usually looks for students who are involved in a variety of organizations and bring diverse perspectives to the group.

Marino emphasized the UBPC serves as a “conduit” for student ideas.

“Students thought of cable TV in dorms, students thought of an LGBT center,” Marino said. “We’ve just been given the cool job of being able to voice that to the administration.”

Reach Elizabeth Campbell at [email protected]