By Jilleen Barrett, Senior Writer
Just before spring break in March, club leaders received some tough news: budget cuts were being made. These cuts were originally going to make it impossible for some groups to pursue any activities unless they already agreed upon funding with the Office of Student Engagement.
An email sent out by Student Engagement explained the circumstances of the budget cuts.
“Regarding Student Engagement and Student Government funding for the remainder of the 2022-2023 academic year, please note, no new expenses are being accepted at this time,” the email stated. “This includes previously allocated or approved funding; they unfortunately will no longer be funded unless contractually obligated as per approved contracts through the General Counsel’s office.”
The email was sent to all official clubs on March 6, 2023.
Emma Pizzullo, vice president of Student Government, was relieved when the Office of Student Engagement told the board that they found a way to avoid taking money from any clubs. However, this did mean some larger projects the board was pursuing would be affected.
According to Pizzullo, the Jasper Day of Wellness (JDOW) on March 22 was supposed to include massages and food trucks, but they were no longer able to pay for them.
John Bennett, the executive director of Student Engagement, explained the reason the money got removed from JDOW and Springfest and reinstated for the clubs is because the office feels that student clubs/organizations are more significant to the individual student’s experience at Manhattan.
“When we’re looking to cut budgets, the first thing we always look to do is cut budgets that won’t affect a specific student,” Bennett said. “We’re just scaling [larger events] back a little bit while not taking away from somebody’s specific sorority or fraternity, or engineering club, or communication group.”
Part of this reasoning is due to the fact that students are paying to attend MC and that a wide range of student interests needs to be accommodated for.
“The truth is that day-to-day activities like clubs keep students the busiest,” Bennett said. “[Clubs are] probably more important in terms of satisfaction, involvement, in terms of the friends you have on campus and your social circle.”
Because Manhattan is a largely tuition-supported institution, the number of students who attend the college full-time affects how much money the college has to spend on student engagement and programming. There are specific fees paid for by those students every year for these purposes.
William Clyde, provost and executive vice president, explained that while less students means less money, it also means there is a smaller community to provide for.
“Sometimes we have classes that are bigger incoming and sometimes we have classes that are smaller incoming,” Clyde said. “And so when we have a smaller class coming in, then our needs for serving those students are less because there are fewer students.”
Clyde also noted that the struggles Manhattan is facing are not unique. He commented that between the pandemic, the rise of online education and more, colleges that are not Ivy League or large state schools are generally struggling.
“We need to make sure that we’re providing all of the services and the education and everything that the students need,” Clyde said.
Clyde also stated that a new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) will be appointed for the next fiscal year, which starts in June. The CFO will work with third party auditors who review the college’s total spending.
After receiving feedback from the auditors for the current fiscal year, Clyde explained that the college does have reserve funds to fall back on. However, this feedback is not what made the college decide to cut budgets; he re-emphasized that the move was influenced by the recent and future incoming class sizes.
Benjamin Boivin, director of undergraduate admissions, wrote in an email to The Quadrangle that the estimated size of the class of 2027 is “between 700-800 students,” which is on par with the sizes of other recent classes.
So what can students do to prepare for any future budget cuts, or to be more informed about how their favorite club can continue their activities? Bennett recommends all club leaders come to the club training sessions held at the beginning of each school year. This will allow the Office of Student Engagement to understand the needs of each club, and ultimately, allocate money for the activities that keep students satisfied with their college experience.