More than $7,000: That’s the amount of money the University Park Undergraduate Association spent on its Encampment retreat.
The annual gathering of student leaders — that, this year, was extended to be a two-day event — is an opportunity for Penn State student leaders representing more than 50 organizations to gather, listen to guest speakers and enjoy a few meals. The Daily Collegian was invited to attend Encampment weekend as a participant organization, but the Collegian declined to participate in order to avoid interfering with its coverage of the event.
Among the guest speakers this year were figures like Penn State President Rodney Erickson, women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose and State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham. While these speakers likely fostered positive conversations among student leaders, it seems excessive to spend thousands of dollars of students’ money to bring together a group of select leaders for this purpose.
Encampment has yet to produce any legitimate results — beyond functioning as a networking event or an opportunity to hear from prominent community figures — that would support UPUA’s decision to set aside such a large portion of its budget for the event.
The campus, as a whole, also has yet to feel the effects of this somewhat exclusive gathering. While the student leaders who attend the event might walk away feeling inspired, the same effect could undoubtedly be achieved with a much smaller price tag.
According to UPUA’s 2012-13 budget, it allocated $7,200 this year to spend on “diversity” and $7,000 to its iClicker initiative. It allocated $3,000 to Sexual Assault Awareness Week. It allocated $500 to a Diet/ Health Awareness Initiative. All of the aforementioned programs have the potential to affect students across campus. On the other hand, $10,000 was set aside for the director of Encampment.
While we applaud Director of Encampment Josh Wimble for his frugality in spending less on the event than what he was allocated, UPUA as a whole should commit itself to reducing its spending on this event and refocusing on projects that stand to benefit a larger portion of the student body.
For example, diversity efforts and programs could see double their current funding. UPUA could dispense twice the amount of iClickers it does now.
Wimble, tasked with organizing the event, said “conversation [at Encampment] was not just about instruction but creating discussion.”
If student leaders want to create discussion, though, wouldn’t it make sense to expand the pool of those involved in the event to go beyond the students who are already actively involved on campus? We’d much rather see the money used for Encampment set aside to pay for events that would be structured as open forums, not events that require a guest list.
And if UPUA is insistent on funding Encampment at its current level, it’s going to need to prove that this event is about more than just more than just broad talking points. Otherwise, UPUA’s kidding itself if it continues to justify a structured discussion and free meals for a narrow pool of students as a valuable use of their peers’ money.