The Student Government Association announced last week that it would bring back the Think Big! Project, renamed as Speak Up, which allows UCA students, faculty and staff to submit ideas for improving the campus. While the project is a great idea, SGA should be careful when choosing projects that will not go drastically over budget.
Using money from its reserve account, SGA will fund a project up to $50,000. While the projects can be more or less than $50,000, any excess will need to come from additional sources. The Think Big! Project resulted in upgrades to Ida Waldran Auditorium, the disk golf course in the Jewel Moore Nature Reserve and the Student Center Amphitheater.
Each of these projects adds to the university’s quality, but the amphitheater is a cautionary tale in going over budget. After SGA funded $50,000 to the the project and received matching donations from housing and the Physical Plant, the lowest estimate was put at $460,000, more than $200,000 above what was originally budgeted.
SGA managed to wrangle most of the money from the board of trustees, which needed to get rid of more than $300,000 to reduce the money in its own account to $200,000. The amphitheater was completed in fall 2012 and has been used often for Recognized Student Organizations and performers, though the number of performers has been much lower than what was originally expected when the idea was proposed.
It is difficult to tell if a project will go over budget when it is in its early planning stages, but it is important for SGA to work within its means. If additional funds can be attained, an expensive project is viable. However, the board of trustees will not always have $300,000 it conveniently needs to get rid of.
The Speak Up project is SGA’s best way to connect with the UCA community. Allowing students, faculty and staff to have a hand in improving the campus makes them feel like the student government listens to them.
The project also allows UCA’s creativity to show in the ideas themselves. It is often difficult to get students to care about the student government or administration, but the Speak Up Project stokes creativity and increases campus-wide involvement.
SGA will look at all proposals it is given, but in order to be seriously considered, students should keep in mind that SGA will only fund ideas that can be enjoyed by all students and that can be reasonably accomplished in the near future with a reasonable budget. So, while students may think their dorm needs an upgrade to its lobby, SGA will only fund something accessible to all students.
SGA will not decide what to fund until next semester, so there is still plenty of time to think of ways to improve the campus. SGA should use the project to implement the best ideas that are offered, but should tread carefully around big-budget items.