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Possible budget bill blowback: Center for Student Involvement

The Center for Student Involvement hosts the popular University Lecture Series which is facing an approximate $60,000 budget cut. The last speech, given by Leslie Odom Jr., had a entry line that filled the Marshall Student Center.. ORACLE PHOTO/CHAVELI GUZMAN

This story is a part of a continuing series that touches on the effects certain departments will face as a result of the proposed budget bill that will cut 15 percent overall to programming.

Among the ubiquitous departmental budgets cuts that were proposed in the Activity and Service Fee Recommendation Committee (ASRC) annual budget bill stands the Center for Student Involvement (CSI), the department with the largest slash in funds. 

In total, CSI will lose $300,055 from its budget, the largest chunk coming from its programming budget specifically. CSI is responsible for putting on events such as University Lecture Series (ULS), Bulls Nite Out, Homecoming, USF Week and Bullstock. 

Aladdin Hiba, chair of ASRC, said CSI was cut so much due to its large budget and a failure to appropriately spend their budgets in the past. 

“The narrative that departments could do more with the budgets that they have has been a narrative that’s been around a little bit in ASRC,” Hiba said. “CSI has been kind of the poster child of the narrative. CSI’s programming budget, compared to the other departments, is tremendously enormous.”

According to Hiba, CSI’s total budget went from $2,080,782 in 2017-18 to $1,780727 in 2018-19, which is a cut of 14.42 percent. Its programming budget specifically went from $1,238,728 in 2017-18 to $955,773, which is a 23.17 percent cut.

While Hiba and Monica Miranda, director of CSI, agree on the total amount CSI is being cut, they disagree on the percentage.

“CSI had an initial cut during the first round of general budget review and decision making and that, plus this secondary cut, is a total of 26 percent,” Miranda said.

The programming budget of CSI is what allows the department to host the events that Miranda said are indicative of the college experience at USF. 

“The staff team will have to huddle up to see which programs that it is going to impact,” Miranda said. “That will be anything from homecoming to Patio Tuesday, Movies on the Lawn, USF Week, Mr. and Miss. USF (and) summer programs. It is about us needing to come together as a staff and figure what is going to be best for the students.”

One of CSI’s most popular programs, ULS may have to face some cutbacks due to the new budget, according to Miranda. 

“There will have to be less speakers because we will not be able to fund the speakers … Those cuts were specifically a $60,000 cut from ULS’s budget,” Miranda said.

Miranda said the senators’ decision to cut CSI so heavily may be due to a lack of understanding on the impact of some of their programs like ULS. 

“What is interesting is at the last ULS I stumbled upon two members of ASRC in the atrium and they asked, ‘What is going on here?’” Miranda said. “The lines were all over the atrium. And, I said, ‘Well, this is ULS,’ and their response to me was, ‘Oh, this is ULS?’

“So, I do not know whether there is a clear understanding of the programs and events; I do not know how often they (senators) are attending these events. Our events are not going to always be filled to capacity every weekend, but that does not mean that they are any less important to the students that do attend.”

Miranda said she is also concerned about the effects these cuts will have on student employment at CSI. According to Hiba, student payroll went from $192,841 in 2017-18 to $169,209 in 2018-19.

It might be necessary to cut student employee positions and/or student hours, according to Miranda. 

“Students who have to work, working on campus is better for them,” Miranda said. “Some of our positions, we have worked with Career Services to create as internships so students are not just working, but they are also learning. That is such a critical piece of student’s success and now we may have to cut some of that.”

Miranda said many of CSI’s programs like Bulls Nite Out serve many students, particularly the international student population. 

“I love that. I love that we can actually provide some great programming and a lot of fun to international students who are still finding their way in the area and trying to learn about where they are supposed to be going, what they are doing, what they can get involved with,” Miranda said. “You cannot put a price on that.”

While Hiba agrees that CSI has an important impact on the student experience, he said he thinks they need to be more fiscally responsible with the funds that are allotted. 

“Has CSI had an impact on the student experience?” Hiba said. “Absolutely. Is it a big impact? Absolutely. Is it the most we can do with $1.2 million? Probably not.” 

Miranda said CSI views things differently as it is not possible for them to put a price to the student experience.

“They (SG) are putting a price to a person, we do not put a price on impact,” Miranda said.