Two developments have occurred within the department of Student Activities. The former Director of Student Activities Jason Feiner, has transitioned out of the position, and the Student Media Board’s (SMB) budget was cut by over $10,000.
Over winter break, students who work for the department of Student Activities were made aware via an email from Assistant Dean Charlie Ahlquist BA ’07, MAT ’08 that Feiner was transitioning out of his position.
“I heard from Charlie, not Jason and it came as a complete surprise to me,” Campus Activities Board (CAB) Chair Henry Farfan ’20 said.
Vice President of Student Life Robin Holmes-Sullivan commented on Feiner’s departure.
“As part of continually reassessing the Division of Student Life, Jason is now director of special events, which focuses on planning and preparing for commencement,” Holmes-Sullivan said via email.
In addition to his other responsibilities, Ahlquist is now the acting director of student activities. He previously supervised Feiner, and according to him, there are no plans to hire a new student activities director in the immediate future.
“Right now I’m keeping the operations going as we try and plan for longer term for the rest of the semester,” Ahlquist said.
Feiner’s former responsibilities included managing student organization budgets and approving various expenditures, coordinating liability waivers for certain activities, helping serve as liaison between the business office and some of the various organizations and advising the CAB chair, SMB chair, club sports coordinator and other student activities staff.
The Director of Student Leadership and Service Harold McNaron, Student Activities Intern Mikah Bertelmann ’21, Student Activities Office Assistant Daniela Zamora Alcaraz ’20 and Ahlquist have taken over these responsibilities.
“I’ve taken a more active role in the management and support of student organizations including being more available in the office,” Bertelmann said.
Zamora Acaraz has also taken a more active role and said that student workers often do not know how to handle the tasks that Feiner used to manage.
“There should also be a staff member in the office to help this transition as we (student workers) sometimes find ourselves lost in processes and paperwork that we don’t know about because that was never our job,” Zamora Acaraz said via email. “In my opinion, his departure shows that the administration feels that Jason’s job was not relevant, but student organizations are used to coming into the office and having a knowledgeable staff member to help them with their events and overall queries, which as student workers we try to do, but are unable since we don’t have as much knowledge as Jason did.”
She also commented on Ahlquist’s role in the office.
“This is not to say that we were left completely alone, Charlie Ahlquist has been there helping with this transition but I still consider that we need a staff member that is available full time,” Zamora Acaraz said.
The Student Media Board is funded by a $20 per semester optional student media fee, so the budget is largely defined by how many students pay the fee. This semester, the fund dropped by $10,000. At the time of reporting, The Pioneer Log has not been able to confirm the reason for this drop.
SMB Chair Cole Harris ’20 was hired last semester by Feiner to allocate funds to the eight student media organizations which include The Pioneer Log, KLC Radio and six student-run journals. Although the fund fluctuates depending on how many students pay the fee, Harris was not expecting the fund to drop so significantly.
The Pioneer Log and KLC Radio’s budgets were cut by about $6,000 and $4,500 respectively. All other journals recieved their full expected budgets.
“The slashes to our budget are a major blow to KLC’s plans for this semester,” Aidan Mackie ’20, the general manager of KLC radio, said via email. “Over the past year, we have been working to create a sense of heart and spirit on our often lackluster campus. These budget cuts only work to undermine this effort along with our already ailing student experience. This is yet another reminder that we must demand more from our school. If not, these things will only continue to happen.”
The Pioneer Log’s Business Manager Stuart Myers ’21 commented on how the cuts will impact the paper.
“If we are unable to make up the $6,000, we won’t be able to afford to print six issues and we will have to cut editors’ stipends substantially, or just cut positions, either one, which we can’t really do,” Myers said. “We either can’t pay our editors or can’t pay our contributors with that sort of cut.”
When Harris became aware of the 25% decrease in funds, he decided to make the cuts without asking any SMB members to submit a budget. He made this decision unilaterally.
Harris said that it is difficult for a journal to run on any less than $2,000 since that money covers printing.
“Operating on a $2,000 budget to publish a journal is hard enough, having your budget cut to $1,500 for a year is nearly impossible,” Harris said. “And all of the student journals already cut down on all of the costs that they can. They don’t pay their staff, they don’t pay their submitters.”
Last semester, Harris realized that there were no formal processes for budget allocation to ensure that the funds were being distributed fairly. As editor of The Meridian, he wanted to avoid a conflict of interest, so he organized a meeting with all of the student media organizations and had them vote on how the funds would be distributed.
“(When I was hired), I didn’t know the process of how the funding went, and it was so informal,” Harris said. “So I tried to create some form of equity in the system and everybody had to vote to approve everybody else’s numbers (last semester). But this semester with having $10,000 less, I just tried to make it proportional.”
Harris is working with Ahlquist and members of the student government to restore the student media organizations’ budgets.
“Note that this will not solve the underlying problem,” Harris said via email.
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