Miller: More money for students

Timely and Timeless

The Supreme Court may have given the green light on corporate spending for political campaigns, but Yale’s policy for funding student organizations is stalled out. The administration evidently has less faith in its own students’ financial prudence than our highest court does in corporate responsibility.

According to the Universiy’s most recent financial report, Yale’s annual operating budget amounts to just over $200,000 for every enrolled student — undergraduate, graduate and professional. Over 40,000 of those dollars pay faculty salaries (a total of close to $500 million). Nearly $7,000 cover the university’s utility expenses (over $76 million altogether).

The Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee, by contrast, clocks in at a total of about $190,000 — or $35 per undergraduate.

Why does Yale spend over a thousand times as much on its libraries — mostly arcane facilities already well on their way to becoming museums — as it disburses for routine funding of student organizations, the backbone of the undergraduate experience?

Perhaps the administration fears that students would allocate additional funds toward activities unsuitable for Yale’s educational mission. That concern may explain the $50 semesterly cap imposed on food and beverage expenses. Presumably, the meal plan ($5,000 per student per year) is so satiating that extra food could not possibly further our organizations’ mission. At least the policy’s consistency is comforting. You’ll never see an official Yale function squandering money on hors d’oeuvres — except occasionally for Master’s Teas, college study breaks, receptions, subsidized butteries, college fellows’ dinners, cultural house events and banquets.

And that’s to say nothing of alcohol, the glue (or silly putty) which binds all social compacts. The University’s underage drinking policy is clear: They don’t ask, we don’t tell. Campus life swings to the beat of illegal alcohol consumption, a practice we recognize as crucial to social edification. But while alcohol flows freely, the coffers are dammed up — many organizations have no means to finance the boozing necessary for their schmoozing.

Admittedly, organizations receive hidden benefits from the institution. They hold meetings in certain Yale buildings free of charge, for example; a minimal Web site hosting service is also available for free; and the faculty Yale hires can be a valuable advisory resource. And the buck doesn’t always stop with the UOFC — a variety of other resources are available, including a number of discretionary funds and (for our more consecrated organizations) alumni donations.

At the end of the day, though, undergraduate organizations get a pretty small piece of the pie. There are over 300 registered organizations on campus, most of which proudly contribute to the vibrancy of the undergraduate experience. Increased funding would enable performance groups to explore new venues and purchase the materials needed for performances. It would allow political organizations to advertise properly and attract expert guests to explore new angles. It would empower publications to reach a wider audience — or even just print a few copies.

But why should the University trust undergraduates to use additional resources effectively? In these financially turbulent times, the administration has had to consider the allocation of more limited resources. Given the notoriously limited imagination of Yale students (who have won no more than a few dozen Nobel Prizes and Pulitzer Prizes, and invented the cotton gin, Morse Code and the submarine), student organizations’ objectives must seem a foolhardy investment — worth no more than the one-hundredth of 1 percent of the budget they currently receive. It won’t be long before the administration edits extracurriculars out of our admissions videos — and our campus life.

Benjamin Miller is a senior in Morse College.


  • Yale10

    I can’t tell if this is parody, but I pray that it is. It would depress me too much to think that a senior here really thinks Yale should waste more money on alcohol and extracurricular social events than on library resources and lab equipment.

    On the other hand, if this is parody, meant to highlight the extravagances that Yale endulges students with non-stop — not academic, mind you — but all the little things: the cocktails, the hints, the brie, the suggestions that Yale students indeed are members of an entitled class that one day will die from too many dinner parties … well, then, as parody the message isn’t very clear, but I certainly agree with you.

  • BR10

    #1- The word you’re looking for is satire, not parody. A parody technically has something else as it’s model. Jonathan Swift is a famous satirist, not a famous parodist.

    In response to the article itself (I thought it was serious, but perhaps I’m wrong), I agree that more funding needs to be made available to student groups, but disagree as to what that funding should be used for. While a greater allowance for refreshments would actually be a boon (food does, in fact, aid in providing a certain kind of atmosphere that can help define an event or meeting), it would be great if student groups were better able to fund trips to NYC, bring in interesting people with whom to have discussions, or subsidize entrance to certain events. I’m sure that money may exist in the form of certain grants or alliances with certain departments or masters, but it would be great if it could be spread around more, and the system for securing it easier to navigate.

  • ??

    You want Yale to raise your tuition so it can give your clubs more money? Why not just spend your own money? The administration will certainly keep half of anything it gets its hands on, so it would be better to do it yourselves.