By, Jilleen Barrett & Anna Woods, A&E Editor & Editor-in-Chief
Students were welcomed back to Manhattan this semester with a slew of changes affecting campus life as Student Engagement faces drastic budget cuts of a couple $100,000 for the year. All official clubs and other aspects of student life are receiving less money than usual while some events — such as the beloved Jasper Jingle Christmas formal and the Spring Fling — were cut entirely. The Quadrangle’s budget was cut by more than 80 percent.
John Bennett, director of Student Engagement, explained that their priority was ensuring that every day club budgets were affected as little as possible.
“One of the most important things when we’re faced with cutting the budgets by a couple $100,000 was making sure that the everyday budgets were … affected as little as possible, and that was our number one priority,” Bennett said.
Bennett shared that both his office and Student Government worked together to distribute funds fairly despite the limited budget. While Student Government focused on cutting club budgets, Student Engagement focused on money spent for non-club activities.
“[The office of Student Engagement] cut all the non-club budget ones but for the club ones, that is student lead and run, we did ask Student Government to cut those,” Bennett said.
Sharon Ortega, the assistant director of Student Engagement, wrote in an email to The Quadrangle that the budget cuts were caused by the pandemic. Last fall, Manhattan College had budget deficits that were also a direct result of having to reallocate money to cover COVID safety procedures, as stated in a previous Quadrangle article.
“I don’t anticipate any future budget cuts but in 2020, we definitely learned to not lock ourselves into contracts or agreements that we were bound to long-term,” Ortega said. “So as we continue to make plans for the spring and next year, the pandemic continues to remind us how fragile life is and how quickly our lives can be flipped upside down. So our new way of planning is to have plan a, b and c in place should we need to modify.”
Kevin Rojas and Liola Moody, the newly elected student body president and vice president, want students to know that the cuts were made almost evenly across the board from the school. They believe talking with Student Engagement, raising donations from alumni or fundraising events may be the best way for individual clubs to cover their operating costs. They also encourage students to present ideas or problems at the Student Government meetings.
“Alumni outreach is one of the highest ways to get money and get the most amount of money, but in terms of bake sales, if you and your club have a niche to make something you can sell that on campus … you can hold different kinds of events, as long as everything is approved in the Student Government or Student Engagement,” Moody said.
While these budget cuts will change how clubs are run on campus, students still have events to look forward to this year. Rojas said movies on the quad, ski trips, dorm wars and Quadstock — also known as Quadchella — will be hosted this year while discounted tickets for Broadway shows and sporting events will be offered. He also shared Student Government’s idea for a new event.
“One of our big ideas that we were trying to implement for this year was a block party,” Rojas said. “So, the location is still pending on that but we’re planning on doing that sooner rather than later so that’ll be pretty fun.”
Student Engagement understands the difficulties that clubs may face with these budget cuts and are here to offer guidance to club leaders if they are struggling and Ortega emphasized this.
I would tell our club leaders that there is nothing to be concerned about,” Ortega wrote. “Our office is here to guide them and they also have support from their advisors and from each other. We will encourage each to move forward with the vision we have for this year. It’s best to look at this year as a blank canvas, exploring new, fresh ideas but also ready to break away from ideas that perhaps didn’t work in the past. But I encourage clubs to plan for a successful year, because we are here to help them achieve that.”