Since the Student Activities Council enacted their moratorium over a year ago, facilities costs have been pointed to as the source of funding problems.
Most of these facilities costs, however, do not come from a rise in rent. In fact, the Perelman Quadrangle, Platt Student Performing Arts House and all the facilities under the Division of the Vice Provost for University Life that student groups regularly use, do not charge rent. The increases come from labor costs, which according to University officials, have risen over the years and are one of the main sources of the problem.
The increased burden on student groups may also come from charges for security, housekeeping, travel and printing, according to Katie Bonner, executive director of the Office of Student Affairs.
For example, to use the performance spaces at the Annenberg Center, students are charged for housekeeping, security workers and other employees who may not directly work on the stage. According to Madison Cario, building manager for Annenberg, these labor rates have increased about three or four percent each year.
“It adds up — I think labor is the biggest direct cost,” she added.
However, Cario said that “we don’t have much say over that” because the University negotiates each year with the unions that represent these workers.
Managers of different spaces across campus did not provide the costs from the past several years. SAC declined as well, saying they are in the process of compiling the data. However, SAC said the results will be released to the public via their website and an email to all SAC-recognized student groups next semester.
Annenberg has many different venues, including the 965-seat Zellerbach Theatre that houses the Freshman Performing Arts Night every year for the Performing Arts Council, and the smaller Harold Prince Theatre.
“It’s costly for one group to take on a week here,” Cario admitted.
Despite the rise in costs, Cario believes that students will still be able to perform on Annenberg stages — though they will have to be creative to avoid such costs by using students volunteers as ushers or splitting the time with other groups. She also suggested potentially converting the lobby into a performance space in the future.
Similar to Annenberg, Huntsman also does not charge rent, but asks students to pay for additional services such as housekeeping, security and technology, Maria O’Callaghan, senior director of Wharton Operations, said in an email.
SAC enacted a moratorium in the fall of last year to avoid bankruptcy. According to previous SAC chair and College senior Jen Chaquette, rising facilities costs were the main problem that led to the decision to stop recognizing new groups.
SAC is currently working with the Office of Student Affairs and the Vice Provost for University Life Finance to find solutions to the rising facilities costs.
“Students came to us with facilities cost increase figures based on their accounting and management,” Bonner said in an email. “We are working closely with SAC to dive deeper into that number and explore the complex issue of unbundling ‘facilities’ costs.”
Additionally, SAC and the Undergraduate Assembly are working with facilities to make a comprehensive “menu” of spaces available on campus with prices. According to SAC chair and College junior Kanisha Parthasarathy, SAC is also working on aggregating invoice data from the past several years, a process that will take until January 2014.
“What we’re doing as a new board…is unpacking the facilities figures and seeing what is causing the rise,” she said. “If we can aggregate that data across different student groups, I think we’ll have a better picture to present to the administration.”
SAC plans to look specifically at the facilities costs charged to student groups that hold annual events. By comparing the facilities costs paid for these annual events over a number of years, they will be able to see where exactly the increase has occurred.
Many feel that having a menu could solve the facilities cost problems.
“The goal is that this price menu will help students make more informed choices as they plan events,” Bonner said in an email.
Cario hopes that creative solutions can help ensure that student groups, like performing arts clubs, remain a part of life at Penn. “I think students have ideas that I couldn’t possibly imagine,” she said.
A previous version of this article stated that SAC is working on creating the pricing menu for January 2014. They are creating a pricing menu, but also compiling invoice data of costs from the past several years.Comments powered by Disqus
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