Possible budget bill blowback: Marshall Student Center

The Marshall Student Center’s programming and student payroll budgets were cut 15 percent, according to the director Sujit Chemburkar. ORACLE PHOTO/JESSE STOKES

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.

In light of an Activity and Service Fee Recommendation Committee (ASRC) annual budget bill already passed by the Senate, many of the Student Affairs departments, such as the Marshall Student Center (MSC) are currently left to rearrange their department spending. As the bill awaits approval from Student Body President Moneer Kheireddine and USF Vice President of Student Affairs and Student Success Paul Dosal, such departments are left working to see what can be done next. 

In the proposed bill, the overall percentage cut to the MSC would equate to approximately four percent, however, specific portions of their budget — student payroll and contractual service, which is responsible for programming put on by the MSC — will receive a more significant reduction. 

“The total budget that we requested … was $2,976,473, and we are slated to receive 2,871,982, which is approximately four percent less when you look at all four lines that we requested,” Chemburkar said. “So, it was a 15 percent for programming that was cut and 15 percent for student payroll… which is a total of a four percent reduction across our whole budget.”

According to Chemburkar, $122,000 was requested from Activity and Service Fee allocations for contractual services, and the MSC received $104,125 of their requested dollars. On the same token, $535,675 was requested for student payroll dollars and $454,474 of that request was allocated.

What this means for operations of the MSC, according to Chemburkar, would be a loss of both operation hours and hours available for student employees. 

“What we would have to do is try and find where in the building we could eliminate 27 student employment hours per day, so that would be through an elimination of services such as Bull Market or Student Center programming or hours of operations,” Chemburkar said. “We are still fine tuning what that would look like for us and what my personal process would be is to come up with three or four different options, hit the Marshall Center Advisory Board for their recommendations, and then go out and poll the students and say, ‘How do you think as a community we could best implement these reductions?’”

Cutting the hours available for student payroll is something that Chemburkar wanted to avoid, as he said he has consistently used all of the funds allocated for student payroll and then some in years past.

Aladdin Hiba, the ASRC chair, said having to cut student hours was not the intention of ASRC when first proposing the budget cuts, but may be necessary.

“ASRC did not come into this process with the idea of, ‘Let’s cut student positions from this department,’ or ‘Let’s cut student pay,’ because ASRC … has been huge about student employment,” Hiba said. “That being said, we also have to face certain realities, and we have less money to work with. Sometimes that just means that we have to do what is best.”

According to Chemburkar, the MSC currently operates most days with 17 hours and has eight to 10 student employees on shift during this time, depending upon events and demand. 

In a packet put together by Danielle McDonald, the dean of students and the directors of Student Affairs Departments, operational hours for the MSC would decrease by approximately 15 hours per week. 

However, Hiba said these responses to the cuts would have a heavy impact on the student experience, though they appear to be questionable in their nature and not necessary. 

“I think that by reducing their building hours by 13 percent to accommodate a 0.36 percent reduction in their budget is extremely excessive and will not be necessary,” Hiba said. “I think if they did do it, that would give them a huge budget surplus. That is not my opinion as a person who has reviewed the MSC’s building hour expenses, that is just (based off) back of the envelope calculations.”

Moving forward, Chemburkar said he hopes to maintain an open line of communication with his ASRC representatives to ensure that the best solution possible is reached for all of the parties involved. 

“I am always happy to sit down with my ASRC reps and Student Government, and review how I approach the budgeting process,” Chemburkar said. “That is why I have been an advocate to try and work with Student Government and the executive committees over the last several years to try and make sure that we have a fully functioning advisory board.”