The Associated Student Body (ASB) announced the dissolution of the Student Resources Committee (SRC) for the next academic year of 2023-24 via email on Feb 2.
The decision was made through a Senate vote, with the bill passing unanimously. The current resources managed by the committee will be dispersed to and managed by other committees.
SRC’s current role is to manage the discretionary fund, which launched in Spring 2020. The fund allows Lewis & Clark students to apply for monetary aid and was intended to assist students, particularly low-income and marginalized students, in their emergency needs. The Committee also manages the digital New York Times subscription.
The announcement email said the Equity, Justice and Inclusion Committee (EIJC) would now oversee the discretionary fund, while the Engagement and Outreach Committee (EOC) will take on the New York Times subscription.
As to why the SRC was dissolved, the email cited efficiency and emphasized that the funds will remain.
“These SRC services will not disappear, but rather (be) reorganized to maximize efficiency within ASB’s structure,” the email said.
ASB President Madeleine MacWilliamson ’24 elaborated, explaining that the decision involved an effort to better consolidate ASB operations.
“We dissolved SRC not to eliminate programs, but to better operate programs,” MacWilliamson said via email. “SRC suffered from low membership which led to delays in the grant (disbursement) for those with time-sensitive situations because SRC could not approve the applications. By transferring the program to EIJC, we are ensuring the grant operates in a more streamlined fashion.”
ASB Chief Justice Alex Chapelle ’24, who is in charge of the bill-writing process for senate, aided in the transition. According to Chapelle, moving the discretionary grant to EIJC was logical given that they already manage a very similar grant. He also explained that the committee has more popularity on campus and as a result, has better membership.
“Essentially it’s because of low membership on the committee,” Chapelle said. “It just felt more reasonable to move, since the Equity and Justice Committee – they already have a grant program that was supposed to be directed toward equity projects.”
SRC coordinator Elizabeth Young ’25, however, cites another reason for the SRC dissolution. The coordinator processes discretionary fund requests and ensures students receive emergency aid in a timely manner. However, Young said their work has been impeded by the business office due to an abrupt change in the way applications were processed, resulting in backlog, concerns of compromised grant anonymity and the eventual dissolution of the SRC.
According to Young the issue began when the college switched from using a Google spreadsheet to track the applications, to mandating hard copies. In addition, they began asking for more paperwork. Young said this decision made the process difficult for students and the SRC.
“The college stopped the use of the spreadsheet because it was too — from what I heard, one of the people in the business office who deals with this stuff was tired of the spreadsheet, that made her have to work too much,” Young said. ”She told us that we have to have everything on paper – hard copy. And that instead of grant forms, we’re gonna use reimbursement forms. Those two are very very very different. Not only did we need reimbursements forms be filled out and signed by the applicant – like, in person– but we also needed their W-8 or W-9, which we did not need before,”
Beyond the increase in paperwork, meeting in person for applications compromises the anonymity of the need-based applications, Young explained.
“The discretionary fund is supposed to be anonymous. That’s one of the most important things: anonymity,” Young said. “And because of that, it was harder to conceal people’s personal information, because we could literally not do that and have them come in and sign their reimbursement form at the same time. You’re not gonna be anonymous if you meet the person face to face to sign a form. So, yeah it was a mess.”
Many students, who have submitted all required paperwork and received email notification that their application has been accepted, have yet to have funds dispersed into their accounts. Young attributes this to the switch to paper, criticizing what she described as an “inefficient” process. Her role for the remainder of the year is to ensure all applications are processed, and the money reaches students.
“The school made it incredibly hard for us to give money out to students and they decided to do that this year,” Young said.
Despite the conflict involved in the decision, she explains that moving the discretionary fund to the EIJC was necessary given their plans to make the process smoother and consolidate student grants.
“(EIJC) said in the bill that they would make a completely new application and call it a discretionary fund application … which is probably for the best,” Young said.
MacWilliamson provided a statement responding to the issue of the discretionary fund, maintaining that it was complex and involved SRC’s low membership and difficulties keeping up with the new system.
“Previously, applicants would fill out a W9 and VAF, but the business office required a reimbursement form midway through the semester. This change required SRC to recalibrate, which coupled with low membership, led to an increased backlog,” MacWilliamson said. “Partly, the business office could do better, but so can ASB better itself. Therefore, we passed the program to EIJC, who has a better history of successfully processing applications in a timely manner.”
Young agreed the low membership was a contributing factor, saying that the SRC “never had” the five members mandated in the constitution.
The issue of low membership is not unique to the SRC, Chapelle explained.
“It’s not just SRC, ASB as a whole suffers with low student engagement,” Chapelle said.
To combat that and improve the overall structure of ASB, a few different solutions are being explored. First, and to be debuted this year after being approved in the 2022-23 year, ASB will begin holding elections in the spring, rather than only in the fall. Out of the 12 senators for the following academic year, nine will be elected in spring, and three in the fall.
Chapelle, who pushed for the idea when serving as senator, explains that this has a dual purpose. Namely, it is to promote more upperclassmen engagement.
“The reason for that was I felt like we needed more upperclassmen to represent students,” Chapelle said. “I think that we do get a lot of engagement from first years, but the issue with that of course is that when they first arrive here, they’re not very familiar with some of the issues on campus.”
In addition, ASB hopes to increase engagement and attention through the spring elections, when people are settled into campus and aware of campus-wide issues.
Another solution, which targets the issue of equity in addition to engagement, is increasing honoraria for senators. Senators serve on committees headed by cabinet members, and meet weekly, though they are compensated far less than their cabinet counterparts.
“There’s also some conversations about having overall honorariums throughout ASB increased, and primarily for senators. And this plays into engagement with student government as well,” Chapelle said. “Right now senators receive, I believe, $100 for the entire year, and senators put in a lot of hours, a lot of work … so there’s conversations about increasing that to a thousand dollars. And so for 12 senators that’s a big boost and hopefully that will increase engagement for people who want to become senators.”
In the meantime, Young encourages students to utilize the grants offered by ASB.
“There are people in ASB who actually care about the resources students have, such as SAAB and the folks on EIJC, and they have grants,” Young said. “And you should use the grants, because the money is there. If you don’t use it, it’s a wasted opportunity to get help if you need help.”