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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

SFC clashes with student group

The Student Finance Committee (SFC) voted last month to freeze, and then reinstate, funding for an event that brought Mary Doria Russell, author of “The Sparrow,” to NMU’s campus.

The event, “An Evening with Mary Doria Russell,” was held on Tuesday, Oct. 26 and was funded in part by the Student Activity Fee. The rest of the nearly $6,600 budget was sponsored by the One Book, One Community organization and NMU’s Visiting Writers program. The SFC voted on Thursday, Oct. 14 to freeze the $2,000 in funding that had been allocated to the NMU student group Sigma Tau Delta (STD) to help cover Russell’s speaking fee. The funding was reinstated after STD met with the SFC on Thursday, Oct. 21.

Andrew Foster, SFC chair and senior accounting and corporate finance major, said that this was only the second time in “known SFC history” that funding had been frozen. He also said that the funding was originally pulled due to a failure to adhere to agreed upon goals, which were established in STD’s Sept. 16 budget meeting with the SFC.

“For us, our biggest concern was that students weren’t finding out about the event, that there wasn’t going to be sufficient notice to students or that they were going to hear about it at all,” he said.

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Foster said one of the specific advertising concerns that the SFC had was that STD had not placed stickers on existing posters for the event, which was something that had been agreed upon during the budget meeting. The additional stickers would have said that there was a $2 fee for community members and displayed the Student Activity Fee logo along with additional event information.

“There is no reason to wait on things like that because the posters were already up,” he said. “There was no reason not to execute that end of their advertising.”

Foster said that, according to SFC bylaws, the organization is not obligated to contact student groups about concerns prior to a vote to freeze funds.

“It’s not typical for us to tact any student groups to police them,” he said. “ Once they are funded, they are responsible for executing what they agreed upon themselves. It is typically not the role of the SFC to enforce. We’re limited in what we can do. We can freeze funds, and that’s it. When it comes to us prodding people to get them to do what was agreed upon, that’s really kind of outside of our (purview).”

Tom Rich, president of STD and English graduate student, thought SFC’s investigation into STD’s advertising efforts was inadequate.

“(The SFC) needed to contact me and ask for clarifications before making such a drastic decision. They aren’t obligated to by their bylaws, but there’s simply no reason not to … they used a hammer when they could have used a phone call.”

Rich said his organization had a time line for advertising and was unaware of any issues concerning it.

“Certainly we could have avoided the problem by advertising over a longer period of time,” he said. “That’s really moot, though, because we had no hint that our time line could in any way be a problem, let alone a problem of this magnitude.”

One of the biggest concerns that STD had, Rich said, was that a contract had already been signed with Russell and if the funding had not been reinstated, the group, and the university as a whole, could have been in legal trouble.

“These events cost money, and when student groups put in orders for posters or sign a contract with a presenter, they have to know that the money will still be there when the time comes to pay,” Rich said. “Pulling funding at the last minute like this potentially puts the university in legal danger, and groups need to be aware of that possibility when they apply for funding and make decisions.”

Rich said that student groups should be aware that it is possible for the SFC to pull funding, and that it is important that everyone involved in the process communicates.

April Lindala, the director of NMU’s Center for Native American Studies and adviser of the Native American Student Association (NASA), said that NASA has worked with the SFC several times to fund events on campus, including an upcoming event that will feature speaker Kevin Annett on Nov. 16.

Lindala said that the SFC plays an important role on campus because it not only safeguards the money that students pay into the Student Activity Fee, but because it can also shape the atmosphere of campus through the events.

“In a way, both of these responsibilities are fairly important,” Lindala said. “It is one thing to serve as the bank for the Student Activity Fee, but it is another to try to guess what activities and programs will be well attended by students. I would guess it is not an easy position to be a committee member.”

Lindala said that students who are interested in garnering a better understanding of the SFC, or helping improve it, should apply to be members of the organization itself.

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