Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee applicants hope to ‘implement change’

Amy Whyte, Reporter

The Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee, which serves as the student voice in the administrative budgeting process, is accepting applications for new members through Wednesday.

The group just finalized its budget recommendations for the upcoming academic year at the close of Winter Quarter, focusing on issues ranging from green spaces to campus safety.

The committee consists of eight members and the Associated Student Government president. Members serve on the UBPC from the time they join until graduation. The new members will compete for the two spots currently held by seniors.

Each year, the UBPC develops and presents a list of proposals to the University Budget Committee, which includes the University president, provost and vice presidents of finance and student affairs. The committee then determines which ideas are feasible and decides whether or not to include them in NU’s budget-planning process.

James Hurley, the associate vice president for budget and planning, said the UBPC produces “consistently high-quality” proposals each year.

“They raise a whole broad range of issues,” Hurley said. “They’re all very good ideas and worthy of support.”

UBPC chair Chase Eck said the committee tries to address the issues that matter most to undergraduates. Each year the group surveys the student body and meets with student leaders and administrators to determine which areas need improvement. Eck, a Weinberg junior, declined to comment on this year’s specific recommendations because the budget process is still ongoing. However, Hurley said some focuses included adding more green spaces, improving campus safety and funding grants.

“We look at problems at Northwestern that affect every undergraduate and try to come up with solutions,” Eck said.

The group receives input from students through Campus Brainstorm, an online poll where students can submit ideas anonymously, and meetings with students leaders. After gathering ideas, members send out a campus-wide survey that allows students to rank which issues they think are most important. Eck said this input heavily influences the final proposal.

“We treat their proposals like we would a request from a VP or dean of any of the schools,” Hurley said. “It’s very important to the University’s process to get that student input.”

The group also regularly meets with University administrators. For example, Counseling and Psychological Services executive director John Dunkle told The Daily in March he requested more funding from UBPC to increase the size of CAPS staff to accommodate a growing demand for mental health resources.

The group’s list of accomplishments — which includes improving cell service in Norris and elsewhere on campus, providing more late-night dining options and adding shuttle services — impressed potential applicants such as Bienen sophomore Nikita Ramanujam.

“They have the power to really implement change on campus,” Ramanujam said.

Ramanujam said it is important for the University to have a student perspective while planning how to allocate funds.

“When (students) see things that are being changed, it’s actually want they want, what they really thought was necessary and essential,” she said.

Eck said he hopes next year the committee will be able to continue to effectively help undergraduates. In order to represent all kinds of undergraduates, he said the committee is looking for new members who will further diversify the committee.

“My undergraduate experience is not going to be identical to someone from Bienen or journalism school,” Eck said. “We really try to make sure we get a lot of unique perspectives on the committee, whether it’s what school you’re in or what your extracurriculars are or what you’re doing academically.”

Applications to join the UBPC are due 5 p.m. Wednesday. New members will begin working on next year’s budget proposal in the fall.

“The energy, the enthusiasm — they’re all very committed and focused,” Hurley said. “I’d like to hire some of them myself.”