The President’s Initiative Fund will have no effect on the funding of student-planned events, the primary concern of students interviewed by The Student in last week’s paper. The president’s discretionary fund is already divided into two parts-one to use for student events and one that has in the past been used arbitrarily by the president for whatever he wants. Previously, nobody outside of the president’s office knew where the money went. Marx’s proposal applies only to the second part of his discretionary fund. It therefore has no effect on his investment in student events. In fact, Marx already has over-spent this year’s allocation for student events, finding money from other places to augment the original amount.
I can see how students saw this change as a threat to funding. The discretionary fund is uncharacteristically small this year, and much of it has already been depleted. The Student article made it seem that money was being taken from student events and given to faculty instead. This simply isn’t the case. Observations that there is significantly less funding available for students at this point in the year are true, but the correlation doesn’t necessarily imply a cause-and-effect relationship. In this case, the lack of funding is symptomatic of greater economic issues completely separate from the president’s new funding proposal. Fortunately, students have many other resources for funding, and even though finding funding might be difficult this year, the president has done nothing to exacerbate that problem.
Not only is Marx’s proposal not a threat to student funding, but in fact, these changes will be beneficial to everyone on campus. This proposal reflects an attitude of forward progress. The fact that a large part of the previously-secret discretionary fund is being put into public view is an important gesture by the president. Instead of being uncertain about the use of the discretionary funds, faculty have an incentive to be creative with their curricula and add a new dimension to the intellectual life on campus. And the effectiveness of the programs funded by the President’s Initiative Fund will be under constant review, so that if something isn’t working, it won’t be funded anymore.
The changes that President Marx is proposing are just another example of an apparent desire to make the administration at the College more efficient and effective in addressing students’ needs on campus. We often take the faculty here for granted and forget that our curricular choices shape our experience here as much as what we do outside of class. Taking this into account, Marx’s investment is a doubly wise one. Not only does it demonstrate a commitment to spending money wisely and openly, but also directly invests in the continuing development of the College’s intellectual life by giving faculty incentives to start thinking about issues that will be facing us as we leave Amherst.
Marx has made some decisions in his first year as college president that have been criticised by students. This proposal should not. It was made with the intention of garnering trust from the faculty, facilitating curricular innovation, promoting creativity and ultimately improving our Amherst education. I firmly believe that these goals will be realized. By getting involved in, rather than resisting, the process that this new proposal has delineated, students can be directly involved in shaping our college’s immediate future. Let’s throw our support behind the President’s Initiative Fund and condone, not condemn, a smart fiscal policy.