Letter to Editor: Cultural student organizations oppose proposed policy limiting food budget to $1,000

It has come to our attention that the GVSU Student Senate is considering a change to the financial process that we believe to be very problematic. The proposed change is a $1,000 limit on the amount of money that a student organization can request for food for any given event. While this may at first seem like a high number, it would in actuality place extremely cumbersome limits on the work of specific student organizations; namely, cultural organizations. We are all familiar with the events put on by groups such as the Muslim Students Association, Desi Student Union, Arab Culture Club, Asian Student Union, and countless others, which give students the opportunity to learn about diverse cultures in many ways, including trying international cuisine. The food component of these events is crucial, yet expensive: many of these events require that the cuisine be ordered from outside companies in order to ensure that it is authentic. This, compounded with the fact that nearly all of the cultural events on campus have very high attendance and thus require large amounts of food, contributes to the high cost of many of these events. A $1,000 limit on food requests would drastically inhibit cultural groups’ ability to bring these events to campus, as authentic cuisine would consequently be nearly impossible to provide to the student body within the restriction.

Part of the rationale behind the proposed limit is that it is needed to prevent wasteful spending by student organizations on events that do not require such a large food budget. It is obvious why it would be problematic for student groups to be spending this amount of money on food such as pizza and pop. However, a closer look at the financial history of student organizations this past year demonstrates that such wasteful spending never actually occurs. In fact, the only student organizations that have spent over $1,000 on food have been cultural; the money has only been spent on providing authentic international cuisine at educational, multicultural events. So, why the $1,000 limit? It is glaringly obvious that the only groups that would be affected by this limit are cultural; no other student groups have ever gone over the limit. What’s more, events put on by cultural organizations already have an extensive history of finding co-sponsorships in an effort to reduce costs.

It would be a devastating mistake for Student Senate to pass this change to the financial process. On principle, it would be unjust to pass a reform that targets cultural organizations in this way; the proposed change would do nothing except inhibit the ability of cultural organizations to host their events. In practice, this change would be doing an extreme disservice to GVSU campus life. The events put on by cultural organizations are amongst the most widely-attended by students, faculty, and community members alike; in fact, they consistently bring members of the Grand Rapids and Allendale communities to campus, promoting GVSU as a leader in education and diversity. Events like these, which are immensely valuable to the university’s mission and values, should never be inhibited in this way. The GVSU Student Senate must act to prevent this extremely problematic financial change from becoming policy.

– Asian Student Union, Vietnamese Interests, Education & Traditions, Korean Intercultural Society, Hmong American Student Association, Muslim Students Association, Arab Cultural Club, African Student Council, Asian Student Union, Black Student Union, Desi Student Union, Latino Student Union and others