November 27, 2007

GPSA Votes to Help With Slope Day Cost

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The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly voted last night to allocate $1.50 in by-line funding toward Slope Day 2007, a figure just over half the GPSA Funding Policy Committee’s initial recommendation.
In an often contentious meeting to determine the final graduate student activity fee budget, debate centered on the responsibility of graduate students to fund a spring semester event that attracts less than 40 percent of the graduate student community. In attendance were members of the Student Assembly, including S.A. President Elan Greenberg ’08 and Vice President for Finance Adam Gay ’08, and Slope Day Programming Board Chair Liz Rapoport ’09, each of whom took an opportunity to speak when the floor opened to non-members of the assembly.
The SDPB has been trying to convince the GPSA for several years that it deserves by-line funding from the graduate student community, and won an important victory earlier this month when the FPC recommended a $2.90 funding appropriation from the graduate student activity fee budget. The recommendation was far below the $7.50 funding request submitted by the SDPB, but still meant that for the first time, Slope Day was set to be receive by-line GPSA funding.
Rapoport has been working since her appointment as SDPB chair in July to smooth a historically tense relationship between the SDPB and the S.A. on one hand and the GPSA on the other. She attended the meeting last night, she said, to clear up any potential confusion regarding the allocation of Slope Day funding and address potential changes to the Slope Day program.
“We really appreciate everything Liz has been doing,” said Michelle Leinfelder grad, vice president of the GPSA. “She’s been working hard to [ensure we have] a positive relationship.” At issue last night was the FPC’s $2.90 funding recommendation, a figure that some GPSA members still felt was too high. According to Janet Vertesi grad, former president of the GPSA, graduate students have yet to demonstrate a level of interest in Slope Day that would warrant such a high appropriation request.
“Graduate students know colloquially that Slope Day is a day for undergraduates,” Vertesi said. “Everyone tells you to keep away from the slope for that day.”
According to Vertesi, a recent survey found that the majority of graduate students are opposed to a funding increase for Slope Day, especially if such an increase would mean a higher overall student activity fee. The survey found that 23 percent of graduates actually favored a decrease in funding for Slope Day from the $4,000 the GPSA contributed last year, surplus money from the activity fee budget that was not appropriated in the budget itself. Additionally, 37 percent of graduates hoped the funding allocation would stay the same, and 13 percent favored a funding increase in the event that such an increase would not affect the overall activity fee.
The S.A. attended the meeting to argue that a $2.90 funding allocation is below what it will take to ensure that graduate students share an equitable burden of cost for Slope Day programming. According to Gay’s calculation, a $7 budget allocation for Slope Day in the graduate student activity fee will mean $42,000 more for Slope Day overall, or an $18 contribution per each graduate student in attendance. Currently, the S.A. contributes $18 per undergraduate attendee by committing $195,000 of the student activity fee, or $15 per undergraduate, to the event. Gay’s numbers are based on a Gannett survey estimating that 11,000 undergraduates, or 82 percent of the undergraduate population, attended Slope Day last year. The same survey found that only 2,300 of the roughly 6,000 graduate students enrolled in the University attended the event.
“The focus of the S.A. is that we’re concerned with per head price,” Greenberg told the GPSA. “Undergrads pay [10 times] more per head than graduates. This is not a personal issue, this is a per head issue.”
After the GPSA passed an amendment that reduced graduate funding for Slope Day from the recommended $2.90 to $1.50, Greenberg responded that he will petition to charge graduate students a nominal fee to attend the event in the spring, “putting the burden of cost on those graduate students who want to attend.”
“I’m going to personally commit [the] resources of the S.A. [so that] through the sale of tickets to graduate students, per head [contribution for graduate attendees] will be the same as for undergraduates,” Greenberg told The Sun after leaving the meeting. “It’s absurd to me that undergrads will pay ten times more to attend Slope Day as graduate students. I felt that graduate students would be fairer [than they were tonight].”
While Gay’s numbers point to a nearly 40 percent rate of attendance for graduate students at Slope Day, GPSA members like Mike Walsh grad contended that graduate student attendance has yet to be accurately measured.
“It’s difficult to say [2,300] is the exact number,” Walsh said. “There was a lot of ambiguity in the survey.”
In fact, estimates of graduate attendance at Slope Day have ranged from anywhere between 700 and 2,500. Taken together with an apparently disinterested graduate student body, Leinfelder said the final funding allocation represents an appropriate middle ground for the GPSA. At $1.50 a student, she said, graduates can show their support for the community-wide event without being unduly burdened by a significant price hike.
“Even if the numbers in the survey were true, the question is, how do grads feel about funding Slope Day,” Leinfelder told The Sun. “We’re trying to represent our constituents. This is not a retaliation against the S.A. [by any means].”
According to Vertesi, the SDPB won a major victory last night, in spite of the funding reduction.
“What happened tonight [the allocation of by-line funding for Slope Day] reflects that we’ve had a positive relationship,” she said after the meeting. “[Ultimately], this was [good for] Slope Day.”