Cho, Libresco and Pagliarella: For a frugal Fling

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Photo by Charles Watkins.

Dear Yale College Council candidates,

As the Class of 2015 is about to find out at Bulldog Days, we are privileged with an incredibly lively campus, with literally hundreds of extracurricular organizations that contribute to a uniquely vibrant social scene. The YCC has been very effective in bringing student concerns and reforms to the Yale administration, making progress on crucial issues such as student mental health and helpful fixes like Summer Storage. However, there are some roles the Council does not need to fill.

While we enjoy the many social events the YCC plans every year, Yale’s social scene is lively and active with or without them. During this time of recession when so many people are struggling economically, both within our community and (perhaps more visibly) immediately outside our gates, spending a great deal of money for one or two more major social events for our campus seems to us to be an unnecessary luxury.

Thus, we would like to make a request to the candidates. Take 50 percent of the YCC’s social budget, currently spent on Spring Fling and a couple other community events, and donate it to an appropriate charitable cause instead. Thanks to the YCC’s new transparency reforms, we know that a whopping $175,000 has been set aside specifically for this year’s Spring Fling. There is no reason we couldn’t be creative enough to have a great musical event at the end of the year with a more frugal $87,500.

Countless charities that are working locally and globally to save and improve lives every day are being forced to slash essential services as the struggling economy continues to force budget cuts. Close to home, New Haven overflow shelters for the homeless struggle for funding every year. On the state level, the Connecticut Food Bank works donation-to-donation to fight hunger; donating half of Spring Fling’s budget would make us their largest annual donor. For those thinking globally, CharityWater can sponsor a well project for $5,000 that provides clean water to a community of 250 people for 20 years. There’s no need to make the decision right now; vet a few charities for quality, and put the choice out to the student body for a vote.

We can choose to maintain the spending status quo on events, or run these same events with far fewer dollars and far more creativity, saving and bettering lives in the process. The decision is yours, but if you make the right one, you’ve got our appreciation — and our vote.

This letter has been co-signed by 101 others, whose names are listed in the online version of this column at yaledailynews.com.

Connie Cho is a sophomore in Silliman College. Leah Libresco is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College and a staff columnist for the News. Christopher Pagliarella is a junior in Berkeley College.

Signees:

Bijan Aboutorabi TC ‘13

Akbar Ahmed DC ‘14

Patricia Alejandro SM ‘12

Katie Aragon TD ‘14

Annie Atura CC ‘11

Julie Aust ES ‘14

Minhal Baig TC ‘12

Nate Balk SM ‘14

Jess Belding DC ‘13

Lauren Berk SM ‘12

Nick Bleisch TC ‘13

Aiyana Bobrownicki BR’13

Patricio Brito ES ‘14

Kara Brower BK ‘13

Juliette Calvarin TD ‘13

Ben Chaidell PC ‘11

Chris Chen BR ‘11

Gina Chen PC ‘11

Chris Clarke TD ‘13

Maria Correa PC ‘13

Daniel Cruse MC ‘13

Ellen Degnan SM ‘12

Sabire Ipek Demir BK ‘14

Alyssa Denning SM ‘13

Nathanael Deraney BK ‘13

Fatymatou Dia SM ‘13

Max Eden MC ‘11

Philip Engelke MC ‘13

Frieda Fein PC ‘14

Eitan Fischer JE ‘13

Jun Luke Foster DC ‘14

Kevin Gallagher PC ‘11

Dan Gordon ES ‘14

Ben Gossels BR ‘11

Harry Graver DC ‘14

Raffi Greenberg MC ‘12

Fryda Guedes PC ‘14

Timmia Hearn Feldman MC ‘12

Rick Herron PC ‘13

Wendy Hou DC ‘12

Alex Isper CC ’14

Max Jacobson SY ‘13

Sana Jaffer CC ‘13

Matt Joseph PC ’12

Elias Kleinbock JE ‘14

Radhika Koul TD ‘14

Sarah Larsson BR ‘12

Dom Lawton BK ‘12

Roy Lee ES ‘13

Yanni Legmpelos JE ‘13

Yang Li BK ‘12

Frances Liu DC ‘13

Caroline Mann ES ‘13

Stephen Marsh SY ‘13

Mason Marshall BR ‘11

Tao Mason SY ‘13

Andrew Mayersohn PC ‘11

Kate McDermott CC ‘11

Stewart McDonald TC ‘14

A.T. McWilliams MC ‘12

Dana Miller BK ‘12

Alyssa Mitson-Salazar JE ‘12

Logan Mohs BK ‘11

Jessica Moore SM ‘13

Dylan Morris BK ‘11

Omar Mumallah PC ‘12

Olga Musayev MC ‘12

Shahla Naimi TC ‘12

Anna North SM ’13

Jessica Oppenheimer CC ‘14

Mari Oye TD ‘11

Jaymin Patel TD ‘12

Andrew Pearlmutter SM ’11

Jason Perlman BK ‘11

Ryan Pollock CC ‘13

Devin Race MC ’13

Daksha Rajagopalan DC ‘12

Josh Revesz CC ’13

Elizabeth Roberts JE ‘12

Jake Romanow SM ‘14

Stasha Rosen SM ‘11

Sophia Sanchez DC ‘13

Emily Sandford MC ‘14

Leah Sarna PC ‘14

Ben Schenkel ES ‘12

Yedidya Schwartz BR ‘11

Yishai Schwartz BR ‘13

Max Silva JE ‘11

Ellen Song JE ‘13

Jacy Tackett BK ‘13

Madelaine Taft-Ferguson DC ‘13

Shailin Thomas TD ‘13

Sera Tolgay BR ‘14

Rebecca Trupin JE ‘11

Selin Unlounen BR ‘14

Kanglei Wang BR ‘11

Alice Wang PC ‘12

Ben Wilson CC ‘14

Sarah Winsberg JE ‘11

Ayanna Woods SM ‘14

Sandy Zhu BR ‘12

Comments

  • Archit Sheth-Shah

    Dear Connie, Leah, and Chris,

    Thanks for starting this dialogue. I am sure that the three of you have read Michael Chao’s opinion piece as well, in which he notes that taking a portion of YCC’s budget and donating it to charity wouldn’t be representative to those who pay the Student Activities Fee expecting the money to go towards college-wide events. I agree that some of the prices for the events that YCC sponsors seem exorbitant, and there are definitely things that can be done to cut costs in some areas (e.g. bottled water, in both an environmental and monetary sense).

    However, as Michael outlined, there are certain fixed costs that exist with a number of events, and these are hard, if not impossible, to overcome. Cutting Spring Fling’s budget by 50% would create a 1-2 act concert (with relatively unknown groups), and while I obviously do not have concrete statistics, I think I can reasonably assume that a not-so-small portion of campus would not be pleased to have their end-of-year party cut in half.

    I do think that it is important for YCC to spearhead initiatives to donate to charity and work with the large number of on-campus groups that are dedicated to various charities and causes. While I do not think that cutting the YCC budget by 50% is feasible, I do think that events that the YCC currently holds with no entrance fees for students could be used to raise money for charity. In fact, YCC members have been working on making the upcoming Electro show do just that — having a suggested donation at the door, with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. This sort of system could be easily implemented at the various events that the YCC sponsors each year, with input from student groups to determine charities and causes for which money will be raised. I am sure that by working with student groups, more creative ways of raising money could also be experimented with.

    I definitely think that it is this sort of constructive dialogue that needs to continue to occur between members of YCC and the student body at large, and have every intention of making sure that it continues.

    Best,
    Archit Sheth-Shah
    MC ’13

  • Leah

    Thanks for the response, Archit. Just to be clear, I’m only speaking for myself in this reply, not the 100 students who cosigned:

    Currently, there doesn’t seem to be any downward pressure on the YCC budget for Spring Fling, and a lot of us feel like the price has gotten so high as to be embarrassing. I’d like to see candidates like you look to see what you think can be trimmed. It would also be good to gauge student preferences about choices for Fling in the context of what different options cost. Most people opt for all the trimmings when they’re just asked “Would you like to have…?” but it would be better to give us a sense of how much we’re spending. When I was pitching the op-ed, lots of the people I talked to were gobsmacked when they found out what the total cost was.

  • River Tam

    You first. You 100 signatories can elect not to pay your Student Activity Fee and donate the money to the homeless.

    I have a suspicion, though, that you guys will instead use the savings to upgrade your Macbooks.

  • grumpyalum

    River Tam only exists to throw around ad hominens.
    If this does anything, it will at least inform people that there’s a student activities fee they can opt out of.

  • 11je

    Personally, I would be just as happy if most of the Spring Fling acts were student bands. The point of Spring Fling is to have a party on Old Campus that unites the student body. The idea that this should require famous bands just feels kind of sad to me, not to mention entitled.

  • River Tam

    > River Tam only exists to throw around ad hominens.

    I see you’re looking pretty ad hom yourself.

    I think this is not an ad hom attack, btw:

    > You 100 signatories can elect not to pay your Student Activity Fee and donate the money to the homeless.

  • jnewsham

    What about the next line where you say you think they’re a bunch of hypocrites?

  • carboncopy

    Thank you for voicing your concerns about Spring Fling and the proper allocation of the YCC budget. As Chao noted, slashing 50% of the Spring Fling budget is highly improbable, but I believe that there are definitely other ways to help charitable causes within the YCC budget.

    The YCC’s attempts at transparency have allowed students to view how much money has been set aside for events such as Spring Fling, as well as various other endeavors such as Summer Storage, Eli Adventures, and the netbook lending program. However, what is missing from the current general overview of the budget are the details, the specifics. Spring Fling and Eli Adventures did not use their allotted $175,000 and $20,000, respectively. But exactly how much is left over? What money remains from even those two projects is still a substantial sum that can be used for collaboration with charitable groups on campus.

    What we need is even more transparency. A constantly updated budget overview, detailed breakdowns of individual events, and information about estimated-versus-actual costs of all YCC endeavors–with that information, students can scrutinize the YCC budget and see exactly where their money is going. It will also be apparent where there is money to spare, money with which more charitable endeavors can be undertaken. Instead of trying to get an idea of the YCC budget from estimated costs, the entire Yale community should have access to the actual, detailed budget. Only then can the YCC and the Yale community at large engage in accurate, constructive dialogue on anything related to the budget.

    - Cece Xie, TC ’13

  • Woland

    I paid my student activities fee for Spring Fling and other social activities. I didn’t pay for it to be used as a fund for the YCC and others to donate to other organizations. I will make my charitable donations to the groups I choose, not to the groups chosen for me. Leave the YCC social budget alone.

  • sep092

    I think this is a great idea.

    Not least because spring fling usually sucks anyway…spending lots of money on something is one thing, spending lots of money on something that isn’t that great is another.

  • Archit Sheth-Shah

    Hey Leah,

    I think you make some great points. In terms of cutting back Spring Fling, the only place that could be cut for a significant amount of money would be artist fees — due to fixed costs associated with staging, lighting, security, etc., cutting back on artists would just leave us with a shorter concert with less well-known acts.

    I definitely agree that a concert could be put on with lesser-known artists — in fact, I am proposing that we have exactly such a concert in the fall, which could highlight student bands and potentially bring in 1-2 smaller outside acts — but this concert would not be the Spring Fling that most students look forward to at the end of the year. There is unfortunately a large amount of student demand on campus to bring in (relatively) big-name acts, and the way the music industry operates, these acts cost a large sum of money.

    I think that in the future, different pricing points could be listed with artists when surveys are sent out, and I think that this could be a move in the positive direction in terms of increasing transparency in the Spring Fling process. Unfortunately, until the contracts are signed and the concert has occurred, it is impossible to provide exact numbers to the student body at large. Estimates must be worked with until then, and dialogue can still be had, but the end-of-year budget should reflect accurate numbers in anticipation of the following year. This is why there are solely estimates for a number of programs on the YCC budget — events just haven’t occurred yet. I am sure that the YCC’s final published budget will reflect the exact prices that were spent on each event.

    There are definitely many factors in play, with each student expecting something different out of the activities fee that we pay. Some students have expressed a need for *more* money to the Spring Fling budget for artists with greater name recognition, while some students choose not to participate in Spring Fling whatsoever. It is a difficult task to balance all of these different interests, and there have been many, many debates during Spring Fling Committee meetings about the value of artists. The need to create a lineup that works well together, satisfies a number of different genres of music, and has enough recognition to pull students from every corner of this campus is one that will continue to face every planner of the concert.

    For better or for worse, that need is here to stay, and it requires a great deal of money to be met. I do think that a gauge of student interest in reducing the Spring Fling budget should definitely be a priority for next year’s executive board, and that this dialogue should be continued when looking towards next year’s budget and calendar of events. In the meantime, finding ways to host these events while still supporting various causes should be explored, and a model like the one detailed above could start that conversation.

    Best,

    Archit Sheth-Shah

    MC ’13

  • elijah

    If the goal of this op-ed was to trigger debate among and with YCC candidates, I think it was very well intentioned, and successful. Archit, thank you for your thoughtful and elaborative response; you’ve got my vote.

  • Inigo_Montoya

    FYI, YDN: the punctuation mark before a shortened class year (the ‘ in ’13), should go the other direction from the way you have it going. It’s not an single open-quotation mark, it’s an apostraphe.

  • Travers

    I think Leah and co. have a pretty good idea here, and even if the YCC doesn’t end up donating half of its social budget to charities, the fact that this is getting support should show how superfluous and unappealing many Yalies find the major YCC social events.

  • River Tam

    > There is unfortunately a large amount of student demand on campus to bring in (relatively) big-name acts, and the way the music industry operates, these acts cost a large sum of money.

    “Unfortunately, the peasants want their bread and circuses”

    Great campaign slogan.

  • JohnnyE

    Terrible argument that shouldn’t even be acknowledged. You can point to any activity and argue that the money would be better spent toward helping people in need. What is your favorite event or student group on campus? Whatever it is, don’t you think 50% of its funding would be better spent toward helping starving kids in Africa?

    Why do you target spring fling, specifically? Is it just because you don’t care for it and it would make no difference in your life if it were gone?

  • morse12

    @Inigo_Montoya And “apostrophe” is spelled “apostrophe.”
    Seriously, though, Spring Fling is not a charitable event, nor is it a local band showcase. It is a reward for finishing the year, and a much needed break from studying and papers before finals week, albeit an expensive and extravagant one. Like JohnnyE said, if we’re taking away funding from Spring Fling and donating to charity, why not take money from the Women’s Center and donate it to charity? The Women’s Center only helps a group of (largely) rich, privileged women — why not help out some less fortunate ones? Or from the libraries — who needs so many books, anyways? And hey, while we’re at it, cut professors’ pay too and donate that to charity. We don’t need big names like Bloom and Amar, we can get by with some lesser-known, more inexpensive acts — er, teachers — right?
    While I agree that it’s possible that the $175,000 that we spend on Spring Fling each year probably has some inefficiencies that can be cut, it is neither the YCC nor any individual student’s place to take money that has already been allocated for a purpose that benefits the whole of the student body and redistribute it to some random charity (because really, without taking all 5,000 opinions into account, how could it be anything but random?). If your petition could have garnered more than 0.2% of the student body’s signatures, you might have a point, but as it stands, your argument is pretty moot.

  • Inigo_Montoya

    Indeed it is. Moral of the story: don’t type too fast when correcting others’ typography.

  • EricEliasson

    I think that the important thing to remember is that the majority of the money that makes up the YCC budget comes from the Student Activities Fee. If students are paying this optional fee, they expect their money to support activities on campus.

    But I do think you bring up some valid issues. I think it’s necessary for next year’s YCC to make the student body aware that this is an option. YCC should be notifying students of this through email and other mediums so way students can consciously decide to vote with their wallets. And if they so choose, they can donate their money to charity, or whatever else they see fit.

    In addition to making sure that students know of this opt out option, the YCC needs to communicate more directly with the student body. The 10k initiative is a great example of this collaboration. I would support creating an 2K Event Fund that would allow non-YCC members (whether unelected or just didn’t have the time to commit) to become directly involved in deciding a YCC sponsored event.

    So let’s really have YCC take the student body’s thoughts into account by allowing them to consciously vote with their wallets, in addition to being able to voice their creative ideas for campus wide events and initiatives in things like the 10K and 2K.

    I would say that the majority of Yale enjoys the major YCC events. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have more open communication about both YCC’s main events and the smaller subsets that already allow, and will continue to further incorporate, students that aren’t directly involved with YCC.

    -Eric Eliasson ’14

  • schmecs

    Woland said it best: a voluntarily contributed Student Activities Fee should not be allocated to things that don’t fall under the category of Student Activities. No one seems to be mentioning the possibility that the Spring Fling budget could be reallocated to other events, though. How about making spring fling smaller but other events better?

    But again, that’s all you really have the right to do this late in the game.