Staff Editorial: Rise in Founders Day budget reveals a disconnect between Student Government and student body
SG should reach out to students to understand what they want
This article has been updated with a correction. The budget for Founder’s Week increased, not the budget for the Ball itself.
The arrival of the spring semester inevitably brings about discussion surrounding AU’s Founders Day Ball. With a budget for the week that continues to climb by the thousands, it’s only fair that students question the costs surrounding the extravagant event.
As a university with little school spirit, Founders Week and the culminating Ball is meant to be a community event that brings the student body together in the absence of a football team or widespread interest in sports. A fundamental flaw in this goal, however, is the fact that a limited number of students actually get the chance to go to the ball. 2,500 tickets are split across the undergraduate population which is comprised of 8,287 people, meaning only 30 percent of the student body can attend the event.
Founder’s Day is arguably Student Government’s most prominent event and the fact that only 30 percent of the student body has the opportunity to enjoy it is a failure on the part of the organization. SG spent $135,000 on Founder’s Week this year, including the Ball with some set aside for Founders Week events that also require tickets. The exclusivity inherent to this AU “tradition” signifies a gap in understanding between what students want and what leaders want to do.
What do students want? SG has somehow made the decision that the AU community wants this Founders Day Ball. Every year, they spend tens of thousands of dollars on an event that a fraction of students has the opportunity to attend. SG members assert that if the students want changes to be made, they should say so. The student body already made its wishes known by voting individuals into office that ran on the platform of lowering the budget and therefore the scale of the event. After that, it was up to SG to act on these demonstrated wishes. Beyond being elected for the policy they campaigned with, it is their job as representatives of the student population to glean our wants and needs. Perpetuating an event that is funded largely by tuition fees, without input from those who are meant to benefit from it, betrays negligence on the part of a student government.
SG members cited a surplus in the student activity fund as the reason the budget for Founders was not lowered and, in fact, increased. Having more money than expected is not a valid justification for overspending on an already inflated event budget. Clubs across AU’s campus are constantly fighting for funds because what they already have barely enables them to support their goals. Instead of putting that surplus into an exclusive event, SG should have considered letting that money be distributed amongst clubs created with students who are passionate about their respective causes and interests.
It is selfish of SG to face a situation in which they had extra money and decide, instead of giving it to organizations that need it, to put it towards the budget that many members previously promised to lower. While there may be systemic issues that prevent SG from making immediate changes to the Founder’s Day budget, the fact that they kept the money that could have supported so many groups on campus shows a difference in prioritization between the student body and SG leaders that refuse to stray from tradition.