New SAC chair talks future of moratorium, student group debt
The DP sits down with the Student Activities Council's incoming chair
October 25, 2013, 2:57 pm · Updated October 25, 2013, 4:24 pm·
Luke Chen | DP
College junior Kanisha Parthasarathy was just elected chair of the Student Activities Council Thursday night. The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with her to discuss her upcoming plans about the moratorium.
The Daily Pennsylvanian: Is there a roadmap for the new board? What’s the plan?
Kanisha Parthasarathy: There are two routes that…we should improve on going forward. The first is improving things within the SAC general body, Right? So that functions as clearing up the funding guidelines and making it more accessible for treasurers to access SAC online and actually be able to use those resources appropriately. We find … [that] new treasurers do not know how to work with the system and that is where we run into a lot of our problem with student debt.
The other way that we will be moving forward is with the moratorium…I completely agree with the decisions of past SAC execs to enact the moratorium and it would be fiscally irresponsible to lift the moratorium right now. That being said, this year we will be working really hard to try and create some sort of action plan moving forward that would allow us to lift the moratorium in the future.
This includes a couple things. The first is working with administrators…it seems to be that they don’t understand the gravity of the situation at hand. Finding a way to explain to them why this is such a big problem is going to be the biggest point that the new SAC exec [board] is working toward. The other thing is lobbying different types of administrators. We’ve been accessing the President, the Provost, the Executive Vice President, [and] VPUL…That way we can have the most amount of people at the highest levels of the University working towards finding a sustainable solution to the problem of increasing costs, which is the biggest problem for the moratorium.
DP: Specifically, what are you lobbying for?
KP: We’re going to be both looking for ways to decrease overall facilities costs or to increase the overall allocation to the Undergraduate Assembly…If we can increase the overall money going into the UA, that means that SAC will have an increased pot of money to fund student groups.
DP: Do you have a timeline for when the moratorium will end?
KP: That’s so dependent on what we work out with the administration. I think that the administration is very open to working with us….but guaranteeing an exact timeline at this point would be irresponsible.
DP: The SAC moratorium was instated in part due to high facilities costs. What do facilities costs include?
KP: Facilities fees, the way SAC understands them, are both rental costs and also include tech fees for performance spaces, … they also include housekeeping fees. As you can see, for bigger events that clubs throw, facilities fees can start skyrocketing, especially in terms of labor costs.
DP: We understand that student group debt has decreased this year. How will SAC continue to decrease student debt?
KP: The decrease in debt [in the past year] from $40,000 to $9,000 is a sure sign that the debt plan is working. It basically is a way to both reduce and to repay the amount of debt that student groups have, but also to deter students from incurring more debt. We’re going to continue with our debt plan because it is working really really well.
DP: Can you give us a breakdown of the current debt plan?
KP: As [student groups] accumulate increasing amounts of debt, next year your budget will be cut by an increasing amount. I think if you incur over $2,000…your budget will be cut and also you have to present a debt plan to SAC exec, where your student group would explain how you will repay your debt and if not you are subject to possible derecognition.
For amounts under $2,000, you face a budget cut.
DP: How do student groups accrue debt from SAC?
KP: [If student groups] withdraw from their SAC account more than what is allotted to them, they go into the red.
DP: Are there any plans to make it so that student groups would be cut off and unable to access more money than is in their SAC account?
KP: That would be an overhaul of the system that the University has put into place…The other reason, beyond the technical aspect, is that the way that student groups function is that they are able to withdraw [more money than they are given] and then pay back with revenue … [from] ticket costs and charging dues.
DP: After the debt is gone, will the moratorium continue?
KP: The moratorium has to continue because of the increasing facilities costs. The math of it does not allow it to be fiscally responsible to lift the moratorium right now. However, we are in a much better position. The timeline of the moratorium decreases as student debt decreases.
DP: New unfunded student groups have called for stronger requirements for continued SAC funding for existing students groups, specifically that you would be evaluated on the events that you were holding. Is there any plan to do this?
KP: I don’t think that there is any way for us to actually evaluate [or] to create metrics for a student group…I have no way of measuring how much someone learned from going to [a student group’s] event. Also some groups have great years for events and some groups have bad years for events. I think it is ridiculous to punish a group who is testing out a new event…creating that type of standard is bad for student life overall.
DP: Recently, new student groups have called for increased transparency. Are you planning on reaching out to these recently formed groups that are not part of SAC? Are you planning to increase transparency? In what ways?
KP: There is a really great idea that I’m working on with the new SAC vice chair and [College junior] Lina Bader, is having an open forum type meeting with those groups that are SAC funded and those student groups that are not SAC funded.
The primary way that we are going to increase transparency is through changing the way that exec reports work at general body meetings. In the future, [the reports will include] updates on things we are working on beyond the pure logistics of approving or partially approving contingency requests. It would talk about the administrators that we lobbied with and any progress made on that front…because these meetings are open to the general public, it would be more transparent.
If students are expecting some sort of update every general body meeting, it pushes us to actually be going out and making these meetings.
DP: Will these reports be available to the public on your website?
KP: They should be. We’re going to be updating our website to make it more user friendly. There have been some issues with accessing the constitution of the website. SAC takes full responsibility for the technical error… We’re going to put up [the new constitution] as soon as possible. The new website will for sure have the constitution and anyone who has questions about what our constitution says should feel free to email me.