Student Diversity Programs and Services (SDPS) work to support diversity on Colorado State University’s campus, yet most offices do not receive funding from student fees.
The diversity programs consist of seven different offices: Asian Pacific American Cultural Center (APACC), Black/African American Cultural Center (B/AACC), El Centro, Pride Resource Center, Native American Cultural Center (NACC), Resources for Disabled Students (RDS) and Women and Gender Advocacy Center (WGAC).
Despite comprising entirely of students, aside from two director positions for each office, SDPS offices do not directly receive student funding, excluding WGAC.
Offices are not underfunded despite the lack of support from student funds. Rather, they receive funding from different outlets, such as state funds, gift funds, personal donators and auxiliary funds established to help support the centers.
The auxiliary fund provided for the offices is managed by student affairs. Rather than providing a universal amount to every office, the amount provided to each office is based off need and history.
“They all have a unique history and needs in different ways,” Nora Oakson said, the Senior Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Budgets and Personnel Management. “So, it makes it difficult to decide where to allocate the money, but there is only a limited amount of funding that can go across to all centers, so we try and give the most money where it is most needed.”
Prior to the federal legalization of gay marriage in 2015, the Pride Center did not receive any state funding. Because of this, they could not afford to hire a director, a necessity for an office to function properly, Oakson said.
“Collectively, all SDPS offices said that we needed to bolster the Pride Resource Center because they were the most lacking in funding,” Sisneros said. “We have finally gotten to the place where they have two full staff, and that took a lot of effort and collaboration.”
WGAC – Student funding because of student advocacy
Kathy Sisneros, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, said that SDPS offices do not receive student fees because the student body has never advocated for offices to collect them.
“Students haven’t asked for their fees to go towards these offices,” Sisneros said. “If that is what they want, they can make it happen by vocalizing their concerns to student government, but they have to do it themselves because the administration cannot speak for the students.”
Sisneros adds that not only are the students not asking to allocate their fees toward the offices, but the offices are not asking for the fees either.
“The students within each office choose what they want to fund, how much they want to fund and what future projects to set up,” Sisneros said. “It is all student driven. So, those departments that don’t receive student fees is because students within the office have never asked.”
If students want to allocate their student fees toward the SDPS offices, they are able to, yet they would have to approach members of Associated Students of Colorado State University and present a case to the student fee review board, Sisneros said.
Sisneros is aware of the process because she previously served as the director for the Women and Gender Advocacy Center. During her time as director, students initiated a campaign to create a fee to provide awareness and response to interpersonal violence issues. It emerged in response to rising sexual assault rates on campus. Because of this, the WGAC office is the only office that receives student fees, but this is only in place because of student action.
“Even the way WGAC acquired being a steward of a student fee is based on students eight years ago,” Sisneros said. “Students pushed through an additional fee for interpersonal violence and safety so through that the fee needed a home, so they identified WGAC as the best stewards for that new fee.”
Resources for Disabled Students – separate committee receives student fees
A separate committee that is within RDS also receives a student fee – the fee does not go directly to the office.
“RDS has had this fee for a very long time, at least 35 years,” Nora said. “They are stewards of this fee, so the fees really belong to a committee of students called the Committee for Disabled Student Accessibility. They needed a home for their fee, and RDS was the natural fit, so they just administered the money.”
Support from alumni, and most recently, fundraising
Offices can secure funds through outreach, and engaging alumni is becoming incredibly important for funding, Oakson explained.
“Last year, B/ACC and El Centro got to celebrate their 40th anniversary,” Sisneros said. “To even pull off that event, they reached out to other alumni or resources in the community that contributed. There is a thread of alumni that are consistent, but not on a reliable, permanent funding scale. NACC does that the best out of all of them. They have some large, long standing gift funds and some very small ones. There is one particular individual who contributes just enough annually to make sure there is an additional tutor available for the center.”
Offices are just starting to organize fundraisers to secure more funding on top of what they are generally provided. This past year, African-American Heritage Month was the first fundraiser organized by an office, Sisneros said. The fundraiser was very targeted outreach to alumni who valued and benefited from the offices when they were students. Even though offices get 100 percent of the funds gathered from fundraising, there are specified rules to follow when fundraising.
When handling their budget, around 90 percent of their funds go toward human resources, Oakson explained. The rest of their budget goes toward operating costs, student celebrations, student leadership retreats, peering mentoring and tutoring.
“When I was in high school we would shake out for gas money everywhere asking ‘Who is going to contribute?’” Sisneros said. “That’s kind of how we got some of these centers up and running. We piece vocalized opinions together and fund offices based off of what our students are asking for and need. If students and offices vocalize where they need and want money to go, we will always work the best we can to accommodate to the community at Colorado State University.”
Collegian reporter Piper Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PiperLDavis.