Letter to the Editor: Is Tulane truly committed to public service?

To the Editor of The Tulane Hullabaloo:

“Most Engaged in Community Service: Tulane University” reads the 2017 Princeton Review college rankings. Yet, next year’s student organization budget, proposed this past week by the Undergraduate Student Government, tells a different story.

Released to student organizations late Wednesday night, this budget proposal comes courtesy of the USG Finance Committee. It intends to allocate nearly $1.7 million to university-recognized student organizations. For the vast majority of these groups, USG budget allocations comprise their only source of funding for the upcoming academic year, and yet, while the total sum may be impressive, the Finance Committee’s division of these funds is outrageously disappointing.

Of the 164 organizations requesting funds from USG for next year, nearly 25 percent are classified as “Public Service” organizations, falling under the oversight of the Community Action Council for Tulane University Students (CACTUS). Despite this ratio, these organizations combined are slated to receive only five percent of the total proposed budget. Based on these reductions, the USG Finance Committee conveys a message that student-led efforts toward advocacy, service and outreach on our campus and in our community are worthy of less than three-quarters of the financial support they received this past year.

However shocking these numbers are, looking deeper into these cuts reveals an even more striking truth. Among the CACTUS organizations suffering major losses for next year is Tulane’s Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline and Education group, SAPHE as many of us know it, which will receive a 28 percent budget decrease. At a time when the university grapples with the rampant sexual assault occurring on our campus, this decision must force us to question whether USG truly supports the progress they so often preach. The answer is clear: USG has responded to the Wave of Change with a meager Wave of Pocket Change.

The cut dealt to SAPHE is one of many direct threats to social justice and advocacy contained in the USG budget, but the ramifications of this budget proposal will carry over into the lives of individual students as well. In the past year, CACTUS has heard from students across our campus who wish to volunteer or intern with agencies across New Orleans, but simply lack the means to get there. As a result, CACTUS stretched its budget to ensure that any student could receive transportation for their public service completely free of charge. Last month, we relayed the need for continued support of this program to USG. We received our answer this week, in the form of a 24 percent reduction in our transportation budget, a message that makes evident USG’s stance that internship opportunities may continue to depend on one’s socioeconomic privilege.

Our student body recently elected a USG president who campaigned on a platform of “fiercer dedication to sexual violence prevention” and “intentional and effective public service.” I hope that as she takes the helm of Tulane’s Undergraduate Student Government, she will start by challenging her Finance Committee’s aggressive underfunding of public service and social advocacy from our student organizations.

On Tuesday evening, the USG Senate will vote on next year’s proposed budget. I encourage you to join CACTUS, at 7 p.m. in the Kendall Cram Ballroom, as we protest the blatant limitations on community action organizations that our student government seeks to impose. If our administration and our students intend to use Tulane’s reputation for public service as a point of pride and as an advertising slogan, then we as a student body must prevent the passage of a budget that will shamelessly force this accolade into a thing of the past.


Jake Hurwitz, Chair of the CACTUS Council, 2018-2019 The Community Action Council for Tulane University

The Community Action Council for Tulane University Students has championed for social advocacy and public service at Tulane since 1968. It continues to work closely with the Center for Public Service to support student-led efforts across Tulane’s campus.

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