Veteran student orgs return, Student Senate proposes solution to CIL budget cuts


Lauren DeVries

Student organizations gather to advertise at Cokes and Clubs, fall 2021.

Budget cuts meant that rechartering was not guaranteed for student organizations this semester, but after three clubs dropped from the list of 52, the Campus Involvement and Leadership office filled their slots by rechartering three veteran clubs for the coming spring: Calvin Democrats, Calvin Hacks and Calvin Symposium.

Five total clubs applied for the openings. Calvin Outdoor Recreation and Turning Point USA received rejections. All five clubs were subjected to a rigorous student organizations council hearing and the results were vetted by the Student Organizations Advisory Committee. 

Organizations were evaluated based on seven criteria to add up to a total of 80 points. Criteria included the educational mission of Calvin, the vision of student organizations, a strong leadership team, a distinct purpose, popularity potential, financial sustainability and the club’s impact on the overall student organization financial ecosystem.

Associate Dean of CIL JB Britton believed the evaluative tool was effective, although he said CIL would consider redistributing the weight of each category in the future.

“I think we have the right categories … I would like more differentiation,” Britton said.

Budgeting had the most difference among the five applicants. Some leaders asked for thousands of dollars, others asked for none, resulting in scores varying from zero to 10.

Britton is looking forward to feedback on the evaluative tool from students in the spring, when CIL plans for a more extensive process.

According to Britton, the club’s petitions for chartering were strengthened because each had already been functioning to some degree on campus throughout the semester.

Britton wanted to remind students that a rejection from CIL did not have to impair their activity on campus.

“There are ways that different students can keep things moving. Instead of being sponsored by student organizations, [they can be sponsored] by other offices and departments,” he said.

Budget constraints mean CIL has to remain at 52 total organizations, something Britton described as unique to Calvin right now, since most institutions do not have a predetermined number.

Thus, according to Britton, a rejection from CIL is based on practicality more than anything.

“At another institution, the only reason they can say no is that ‘you don’t belong here’ … our ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘actually, you don’t belong here’; what we’re saying actually is … ‘you didn’t get into, in this case, the top three,’” said Britton.

Student Senate Team Leader Theodore Perumal, however, is worried about the insecurity of student organizations and the “constant” budget-driven changes. To him, it seems that the frequent deductions from CIL’s budgets signify a lack of interest in investing in the student life experience. He sees the problem as extending to the SAO as well, and all other aspects of student life. 

“Calvin’s mission is to think deeply, to act justly and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world. We feel like living wholeheartedly is being really, really ignored,” Perumal said.

Perumal told Chimes that the budget cuts come at a particularly bad time, when students need a vibrant campus to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

As a solution, Student Senate has proposed an alternative model of funding for CIL, where students pay separately for participation in student organizations rather than have it deducted from tuition. According to Perumal, this would guarantee the security of the funds in the future.  

“We decided that a $35 per semester fee would be best,” he said. This comes after a series of extensive research and planning with his team of five.

Students now pay $16 dollars as a part of their tuition, but the plan is for the $35 to be allocated separately. 

According to Perumal, this would result in a $100,000 total sum, which would revitalize student life, allowing for at least 10 more organizations, the return of the capital and conference funds, a 25 to 30% budget increase for all student organizations and other benefits for SAO office and weekend programming. The new funds could also be used to properly compensate CIL staff and hire another staff member to support Britton and Jack Droppers, the director of student activities. 

In addition, an endowment account would be created, which Perumal hopes would eventually gain enough profits to fund CIL, making it self-sufficient. 

Perumal believes this plan could be a success as long as the senate gets students and key staff onboard. Student support is particularly important to Perumal, who believes it would go a long way to convince the administration of the plan’s viability. Student Senate started a “Refund Student Orgs” petition, with a 500 student signature cut-off as a way for students to demonstrate their interest. Student Senate is hoping to get the signatures in time to make the budget hearings with the Board of Trustees in February.