BECA Speaks Up
Students Appeal Loss of Grad Funding
February 16, 2007 9:01 PM
A graduating class too large to host its ceremonies on the SF State campus may find itself without school funding for an off-campus option when the students are ready to cross the stage in May.
The broadcast and electronic communication arts department, which celebrated its 60th anniversary and was the fifth largest major at SF State in 2006, is in the middle of an appeal to prove that its off-campus graduation is a “historical event.” Without that proof, about 300 BECA students planning to graduate in May will have to rely on increased fees and fund raising efforts, such as donut and candy sales, to bankroll the ceremony.
“Graduation is a big deal. It’s the last time you’ll be with all your friends and your teachers and your family, and you’re closing a chapter of your life,” said Clara Benjamin, 23, a graduating BECA student.
For several years, Associated Students Incorporated provided funding to College Students in Broadcasting, the student club that organizes BECA’s graduation. But last year ASI’s Board of Directors made changes in policy that threaten to leave BECA students fending for themselves to fund the ceremony, which CSB is budgeting at over $4,000 – a budget that forgoes catering at the event.
As of this year, ASI is no longer funding student events that occur off-campus, unless they are classified as “historical events.” This change is intended to reduce liability issues and bring more money back onto campus, according to ASI Health & Human Services Representative John Bergman.
Until 2006, any event funded by ASI for five consecutive years was considered “historical.” The new policy requires 10 years of consecutive funding. If the BECA advocates can show their graduation was funded five years in a row before this policy change took place, they will still get their historical status.
Benjamin and Terra Fernandez, 21, also a BECA student, searched ASI’s records and found that, while they have been funded for five of the last six years, a paperwork error forced the BECA department to produce its own funding for the 2002 graduation.
“We took care of ourselves for one year, and now that’s going to cut off our funding entirely? That’s not fair,” said Fernandez. “We can’t fit anywhere on campus. Even if we could cram everyone into the gym, it’s already booked. We could hold the graduation two weeks earlier, but can you graduate people who haven’t even taken finals?”
Bergman said ASI is facing a deficit of $100,000 next year, and described the problem as a partially political one.
“Members on the board are elected, and if you want to be reelected and you cut programs you’re going to have trouble,” he said. “We can’t cut historical programs’ funding unless the organizers fail to file one year.”
With new student clubs and organizations proposing new budget items every year, and with more and more events reaching the budget-insulated historical status over time, ASI is faced with a fixed budget and regularly increasing expenses. But when the board cut $160,000 in programs last year to stabilize its spending, student groups fought back and much of that funding was restored, Bergman said.
“If we don’t develop a business plan, eventually we’ll have to cut all our programs and it will be devastating,” he said. “In the end, the students are probably going to lose if we don’t do anything.”
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