A group of students concerned about the declining budgets of charities has put forth a proposal to assist them by reallocating a significant portion of the Yale College Council budget from events to charitable donations. While their goal is admirable, the means by which they hope to achieve it — reallocating the portion of the YCC budget directed towards events — is misguided and reflects a naïve understanding of the budget and the events it funds.
The YCC budget is funded by a variety of sources. The primary source of funding is revenue from the Student Activities Fee. While funds in the YCC budget are commingled, the revenues from the Student Activities Fee clearly fund what its name suggests — student activities. Evidence of this can be found in the expansion of YCC events — in both number and scale — since the introduction of the Student Activities Fee. The fee was introduced after a vote by Yale undergraduates agreeing to implement a fund to support college-wide events, undergraduate organizations and club sports. Reallocating how the Student Activities Fee is spent would likely face hurdles from administrators and would be a violation of students’ intent. The most appropriate solution is for students to opt out of paying the fee — which they can easily do — and, instead, donate that amount to their preferred charity.
Nevertheless, even if the Student Activities Fee could be reallocated, what would be the consequences of that action? The proponents of reallocation would argue that not much would change except for the scale of Spring Fling. This, however, is simply not true. This year, the Yale College Council received approximately $173,000 from the Student Activities Fee. This amount is the largest-ever amount received from the fee. Let us, for a moment, assume that the amount collected from the fee would remain at current levels and all allocations in the YCC budget would also remain at current levels except for Spring Fling. This would leave the amount allocated for Spring Fling at $87,500. While $87,500 is certainly a significant sum, it is not enough to hold Spring Fling, or, at least, not an event that we would recognize to be Spring Fling.
Spring Fling currently costs approximately $175,000. $60,000 of that cost is relatively fixed — staging, sound, lighting, security, etc. Even if certain costs could be reduced because of a shorter show (since we would have less money to book professional artists), those fixed costs would still total approximately $45,000. That would leave us with a little over $40,000, enough to book only one somewhat well known artist (Sean Kingston, anyone?). The resulting concert would be a shell of its former self, and one that may no longer be worth having.
Students wishing to assist charities should consider opting out of the Student Activities Fee and donate what they would have paid to their preferred charities. At the same time, they may also wish to consider giving up Spring Fling completely, since such an event would likely no longer be possible with a significant decrease in participation in paying the Student Activities Fee. Alternatively, those students may wish to request that administrators start a new optional fee for some sort of charitable donation contest to overcome collective action problems. But reallocating the YCC budget is not a wise choice, and it is one that would fail on multiple grounds.
Michael Chao is a senior in Pierson College and the Yale College Council Events Director.