I find it admirable how students at LMU and across the country have taken it upon themselves to make this country a more just, equitable place. This summer, hundreds of members of the LMU community gathered to peacefully support the Black Lives Matter movement. Student run organizations like Agency LMU have taken it upon themselves to elevate the voices of those traditionally underrepresented in the media. Across the country, youth went to the polls like never before, with a voter turnout increase of as much as 10%.
That said, these calls for social justice that are so prevalent among young progressive Americans tend to be rooted in the assumption that the burden of these reforms will fall upon someone else. Eat the rich, right? Down with the corporate shills?
Maybe, though, we should also take a moment to examine the actions we can take ourselves as students. After all, if we want to talk about mutual aid and social justice, there’s a massive source of liquid, disposable cash just at the tip of our fingers as LMU students.
The ASLMU budget in 2019-2020 (a non-pandemic year) was $654,000. Even this year, when most students are off-campus and classes are online, the budget is $500,000. Not only is that a huge amount of money, it is also one hundred percent liquid. That means that every single dollar is spendable; the only question is where it is spent.
Some of the charges seem reasonable. Two thousand for licenses and taxes? Ok. Another two thousand for senior stoles? I guess it wouldn’t be graduation without them.
Then we start getting into the bigger numbers. Sixty thousand on the Christmas Tree Lighting event, almost eighty thousand on After Sunset and a whopping one hundred and fifty thousand on Fallapalooza.
How does our current ASLMU Chief Financial Officer, Isabella Ramin, justify these numbers? She told the Loyolan that she thinks “that Fallapalooza and After Sunset are great events that build a sense of community and enhance the student experience. While the costs may seem so high at first glance, I believe events like these are a great way to boost morale and allow students to have fun.”
Ramin’s not wrong. Fallapalooza was fun. Saying my University brought us a T-Pain concert definitely scores some bragging points, but is it worth the amount of money that goes into it?
At the end of the day, it’s students’ money, so students should be the ones to decide. In fact, ASLMU’s spending could be a far more democratic process if students were actually given a chance to vote where their money goes in a manner not unlike California’s proposition system.
ASLMU should give students the opportunity to decide whether they would rather have an extravagant concert or use that money to support marginalized groups, make the campus more environmentally efficient and provide scholarships to low-income students. Personally, I would far prefer if the school invested that time and energy into supporting a local or rising artist rather than paying tens of thousands of dollars to a singer that already has millions, but that’s just me.
Now if most students vote to keep Fallapalooza and After Sunset, that is their choice, but I would find it incredibly hypocritical if those students went on to complain about the world being an unfair place.
And if we’re still on the topic of cutting the budget, those three events might have the biggest numbers attached to them, but there’s a whole lot of other sections to examine too. For example, $6,700 go into swag and apparel — swag being the most blatant example of throw-away consumerism at our university. In two years, that money could instead be used to cover the cost of installing solar panels on one of our buildings.
Then you start looking at the small parts of the budget that slowly start to add up. Two thousand on catered meals, three thousand on an ASLMU Spring Retreat, another three thousand on inauguration (who knew inaugurating a university president could be that expensive?) and two and a half thousand more on the end of the year banquet… all of a sudden, we have more than $10,000 paid straight out of our pockets into seemingly unnecessary ASLMU expenses.
If students were given a more active role in the decision-making process of how funds are allocated, we might see a more responsible distribution of this overwhelmingly large amount of money.
NOTE: The LA Loyolan benefits from ASLMU funding. Fifteen thousand dollars were allocated this year to First Amendment Week, which is cohosted by the LA Loyolan. Personally, I love First Amendment Week, but as far as I’m concerned, that is still student money, and you as a student should be deciding where it goes.
This is the opinion of Veronica Backer-Peral, a junior film and television production, history and computer science triple major from Pasadena, California. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow and tweet comments to @LALoyolan on Twitter, and like The Loyolan on Facebook.