On Tuesday, February 10, a preliminary version of the Union Annual Report for the 2015–16 fiscal year was released online to the Rensselaer community. The UAR is prepared prior to each fiscal year to the start of explain and publicize how Union funds are spent. It is created by the joint Student Senate and Rensselaer Union Executive Board committee of the same name, which is chaired by the Senate/E-Board liaison, a position of which is currently held by Shoshanna Rubenstein ’15.
Including important information, the UAR conveys includes changes to the Student Activity Fee, club recognition and funding, projected income and expenses for the Union in the upcoming fiscal year, and general changes and improvements during the previous fiscal year.
The proposed change in activity fee paid by undergraduate students is a 2.97 percent increase from the current fiscal year, bringing the cost per student to $658. Additionally, an increase to the graduate student activity fee has been proposed at a comparable 2.92 percent, bringing it to $353. The Activity Fee makes up 86 percent of the total income for the Union, and therefore, covers the operational difference created by the Union’s expenses that result from services offered. The remaining 14 percent of income is made up of revenue from the Union Bookstore (65 percent), Father’s Marketplace (13 percent), auxiliary businesses (13 percent) (i.e. SEFCU and Campus Unisex Hair Salon), and food service (9 percent).
Another important statistic to receive changes is the total club subsidy, which has a proposed decrease of 2.05 percent from the current fiscal year’s $697,448, bringing the new total to $683,210. Many student organizations face subsidy cuts of varying magnitude, with a small number losing all funding due to inactivity. Most clubs receiving large subsidy increases are newer clubs that have recently shifted to larger full operation budgets due to growth as a club.
While subsidies did decrease, approved club expenses increased by 3.81 percent and approved club income increased by 10.95 percent. All data on approved expenses, income, and subsidies for individual clubs can be found in Appendix A of the UAR.
Another aspect of student life that is directly funded by the Union are intercollegiate athletics. The total subsidy for intercollegiate athletics is proposed to remain constant from the current fiscal year at $1.6 million; however, many individual sports face increases or cuts to achieve this. Remaining constant year after year, men’s ice hockey will continue to receive the largest subsidy at $204,746. The data for all teams can be found in Appendix B of the report.
The final aspect of the UAR is the administrative budgets section, which is found in Appendix C. This section discusses what appears to be the largest proposed increase from the current fiscal year at 23.41 percent overall, and more specifically a 25.97 percent increase for the Administration Office line item. This proposed change has been met by the RPI community with a seemingly overall negative response since the UAR’s release. To put the change in perspective, the increase for the current fiscal year compared to the ’12 –’13 Union Budget for Administrative Budgets was 15.19 percent and the increase for the administration office was 18.19 percent. Students responding on the RPI subreddit seemed to disagree overall with the cut to club subsidies occurring at the same time as this increase. When responding on Reddit, Rubenstein stated: “To clarify, what seems like a $200k increase is a centralization of salaries for staff. In FY15 the salaries were in the Mueller Center budget and in FY16 they are in the Administration Office.” However, it does not seem that the Mueller Center budget was decreased accordingly, as it faces a .05 percent decrease from the current year, and, comparatively, the previous change going into this year was 1.68 percent increase. Rubenstein stated that the overall 25.92 percent increase when combining the two budgets resulted because “(the) Mueller Center had an increase due to facility expenses.” She also stated, however, “More specific information would need to come from the Mueller Center staff.”
A final version of the UAR will be presented to the Student Senate on Thursday, February 12, and will be voted on for approval by the body before it is presented to the RPI Administration. (In previous years, the report was presented to the vice president of student life; however, that position is currently vacant.) Finally, this UAR will be included in the final Institute budget, which will be reviewed and approved by the Board of Trustees in March. The staff of The Polytechnic plans to continue looking into the previously mentioned contested increases, including attempting to review itemized budgets for both the Mueller Center and Administration Offices, and will report information on them as it becomes available.