Students are rejoining faculty and administration in suggesting how King’s spends its money – and how to save it.
President George Cooper has reinstated the Budget Advisory Committee, a committee of faculty members, administrators and students, to review the coming year’s budget and recommend cuts and changes. The student position was axed the year before by past president Anne Leavitt, who later disregarded the committee entirely.
Quinn Harrington, the financial vice president of the King’s Students’ Union, has been chosen to be the student representative on the committee, and now meets with the committee weekly. He says the difference between last year’s approach to student involvement and this year’s is stark.
“I think that Dr. Cooper’s near immediate decision to reinstate the student position is testament enough to the fact that the decision made by Dr. Leavitt was a poor one,” said Harrington. “That decision, as Dr. Cooper has noted, had a negative impact on both the student side of this discussion and the administration side.”
The committee was created by past president William Barker in 2003, to give faculty and students some say in the budget prepared by the Board of Governors. The committee could suggest ways to find small savings and where to spend money.
President Leavitt, who took the job vacated by Barker in 2011, said to The Watch in April 2012 that she saw the committee as inessential in the school’s current financial situation.
“The committee did a lot of very good work in finding savings here and there in very small ways, but which added up to significant means for the university,” said Leavitt. “We will not be looking at that kind of a process for next year because we’re not looking at adding up very tiny savings.”
Current president Cooper says he agrees the school needs to save money, but he’s not sure Leavitt had it right.
“She may have had something else in mind, something I wasn’t aware of. I certainly am aware that we’re going to have to be very careful with the funding that we get,” said Cooper. “We do have to run a tight ship – there is no doubt about that. So whether that means small savings or large savings, though it’ll probably be some combination of the two, we don’t know yet.”
That’s a start, says Stephanie Duchon, who was elected as a student representative on the Board of Governors in March 2012.
“Now we have the same input that we had before [Leavitt],” said Duchon “The fact that it’s not necessarily one of the board members like myself, kind of gives the student representative on the budget advisory committee the opportunity to actually represent students, what they’re thinking and feeling, rather than stifling that.”
As a member of the board, Duchon says she has “a judiciary responsibility to the board and the university to put the board first and the university first, before my own agenda as a student.”
The Board of Governors and the Budget Advisory Committee both deal with the school’s finances but come at the job from different angles.
The board manages the money and property of the university and is responsible for appointing the president, professors, and university officials, while the BAC looks at the budget put forth by the board and tries to improve on it by suggesting how to spend money and where to save it. The relationship is one that Cooper said is “normal.”
“I was on the board for a number of years up to 2007,” he said. “In fact I was chairman of the board, and am used to a certain make-up of these committees and it just seemed to be normal for this committee to be made up as it had been in prior years, so on we go.”
Cooper says the group should have some results by the middle of November. The BAC has been meeting weekly since being reinstated. Having students on the committee is important, Cooper says, to make informed financial decisions.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the most important insights are of students, but they’re definitely not the least either,” said Cooper. “All insights are important and I am grateful to have the advice of students on any topic that is relevant to the university.”
This kind of involvement is necessary, says KSU council member Harrington, because “any solutions need to be arrived at through collaboration between administration and students,” in order for the school to move forward.
“I don’t think that we can work towards change in the university without the support and involvement of all the elements,” said Harrington.
“So, do I think this was a political move, in a superficial sense? Absolutely not. Do I think that this was a conscious move to more adequately involve students in reforming the school and bringing it to a better state than it’s currently in? Absolutely.”