How Ben Got You Ten

p>Ben Wildstein just got you $10,000, you should probably thank him. Wildstein is a member of the Student Government Association, and serves as a member of the Finance Committee. Of the approximate $1 million dollars allotted to SGA annually, only 10% (or $100,000) of the money is used at the SGA’s discretion. SGA’s revenue comes directly from the “Student Fee” assessed to all UVM students’ tuition each semester.

The current Student Fees equate to $54. These Student Fees aggregate to give SGA about $1 million annually. None of this money is given to SGA from the UVM Administration. The Finance Committee is responsible for distributing the $100,000 to various University Clubs. Clubs write detailed reports about how they plan to use SGA Supplemental Funds (i.e. money for gas to transport Club members, or money to purchase table cloths for on-campus events…) and the Finance Committee is responsible for reviewing these requests and distributing SGA funds accordingly.

As a member of the Finance Committee, Wildstein noted-as myself and the other members of the Committee have also witnessed-that the money allotted to Finance Committee is not enough to cover Club requests. The Finance Committee most frequently grants clubs “portions” of the money they request, expecting Club fundraising to subsidize additional costs. Ben said, “People ask for reasonable things, and we can only provide unreasonable amounts.” Wildstein decided to take a stand against the SGA shortage of funding, with the assumption that students would gain from augmented benefits.

A logical response to funding shortages includes raising the overall SGA revenue, so that Finance Committee would have more funds to distribute to University Clubs. SGA revenue comes directly from student tuition costs. But Wildstein was adamantly opposed to raising tuition. “Student tuition costs are already incredibly high,” Wildstein noted, “and I didn’t want to be responsible for charging kids any more than they absolutely had to pay.”

Wildstein decided to lobby for additional funds directly: he went to the UVM administration and requested UVM money be granted to the SGA. He spoke to Michael Gower, The Vice President of Finance and Administration. Wildstein and Gower had several meetings, whereby Wildstein made evident the embarrassing lack of ability the SGA had to effectively aid student Club activities. Wildstein declared “I understand the cost of money, and we need more of it.” Gower is said to have responded, “I’ll see if there’s any wiggle room…” Wildstein waited weeks between meetings, and received virtually no support from the rest of the student body.

Most of his peers were overly dubious that Wildstein’s actions would generate any notable results. Wildstein asserted that students have seen sports teams cut, while undergraduate enrollment and the number of University recognized clubs have both risen. “I’m not in any clubs at all,” Wildstein galliantly noted, “but I understand the frustrating and often impossible costs associated with campus activities. It’s just not fair.”

After much consideration and deliberation, Gower decided to grant the SGA an additional $10,000 to be distributed at the Finance Committee’s discretion. Upon hearing this news, I applauded Ben for his outstanding achievement. This is the first time in UVM’s history that the UVM treasury has given money to the SGA, which traditionally receives all its funding from student fees. Ben’s response? “I’m not satisfied! I don’t think it’s enough! I hope we can make the “Gower-Fogel Fund” an annual thing!” Ben’s lofty goals are part of what convinced Gower and the rest of UVM’s administration to fork over some cash.

Wildstein’s persistence and charismatic rationale (“a little bit makes a big difference,” he stated; fitting when considering the fraction of UVM’s approximate $2 billion net worth) also convinced the Administration that his lobbying efforts were valid. Wildstein’s actions provide an optimistic and empowering message to students. After indicating his commitment to persistently hard work until achieving his goal, his hard work was rewarded.

His successful attainment of $10,000 University dollars (to be directly redistributed to student activities) demonstrates that power that students have in determining the direction of this University. Such funding has never been given directly to students before: Ben is truly a trendsetter. I hope Wildstein’s actions motivate other members of our University to take a vested interest in the way our school operates.