April 10, 2018
On April 4, Philip DiStefano, chancellor of CU Boulder, announced his plan to strip Boulder’s CU Student Government the oversight of over $24 million.
According to an official statement via Chancellor DiStefano, he wishes to reduce the “burden” of CUSG’s responsibility on overseeing millions of dollars toward operations like campus facilities, bond debt, personnel and student programming.
His decision to move the majority of funding oversight to the Office of Student Affairs leaves CUSG with just $1.9 million to distribute to student programming and organizations.
According to the CU Independent, CU Boulder’s student news site, DiStefano presented his decision as “one that has already been made,” rather than as a conversation.
As of Thursday, DiStefano “pulled back on the timing” of changes as students made statements of concern at the April 5 CU Board of Regents meeting. In a statement, he said he commits to hearing all points of view on the issue.
However, DiStefano had no place to revoke the CUSG’s funding responsibilities without the appropriate channels of communication in the first place.
CUSG is notable for its relative autonomy under the CU brass, and brazenly overriding that in the name of relieving the organization of “the burden of managing professional staff and facilities,” as written in the chancellor’s statement, is a basic violation of that agreement which has stood the test of time.
When administration oversteps students, who are supposed to be the core focus of a university, it shows a clear disregard for their input in important action items that will affect their peers. This is especially so when administration makes sweeping decisions without communicating with student representatives.
It should not take student protests or statements at a regents’ meeting to change an administrator’s mind.
According to a statement released by Chancellor DiStefano, his decision does not reflect CUSG’s leadership or “any malfeasance.” But the hasty decision begs the question of why DiStefano did not even consult with CUSG members on something as important as their funding control.
The decision by the chancellor represented a violation of CUSG’s autonomy and validity. The Chancellor’s plan would have essentially reduced the organization to a mere advisory role — a stark contrast to what CUSG’s 44-year history has been.
Student government is supposed to represent the students by serving in a similar way that our federal and state representatives do. Funding operations are a large part of that purpose.
While administration represents students as well, their leadership purpose is different than that of student government’s. It is student government that has the principal responsibility of hearing students’ concerns, working on student bills and resolutions to enhance a school’s operations and working to support programming on campus.
Taking away funding power from organizations like CUSG decreases their ability to do that.
However, communication decisions needed to improve. In a statement, CUSG stated, “If it were not for the students there would be no university in the first place—our voices should not be so easily dismissed.”