By: Victor Jorges / News Director
Student Media originally requested $300,000, plus an additional $2,000 for online initiatives, such as radio streaming, services for fully online students, etc.
The budget committee, composed of Student Government Council at the Modesto Maidique Campus President Sabrina Rosell, SGC-MMC Vice President Isabella Ojeda, SGC-MMC Comptroller Ariadna Natteri, SGC-MMC Speaker of the Senate David Nivia, SGC-MMC Speaker Pro Tempore Angel Algarin, Student Government Council at the Biscayne Bay Campus President Pamela Ho Fung, SGC-BBC Vice President Mahalia Balfour, SGC-BBC Comptroller Dora Febles, and SGC-BBC Speaker of the Senate Gabriella Malak overlooks the requests made by organizations and allocates the funding for the upcoming year.
According to Ho Fung, the committee unanimously voted to allocate Student Media $270,000 from the first request of $300,000. This original and momentary allocation would leave Student Media $30,000 under their base operating cost.
Things got complicated when it came time to decide on the additional budget request that Student Media made.
According to Francesca Rosario, Business Manager for Student Media, the additional request’s purpose was to focus on online efforts.
“We have online options (website, streaming radio, PantherDen page – part of FIU Online effort, etc.) so we put in an online request,” she said in an email.
The original request for $2,000 did not get voted through. Nivia moved to allocate $2,000 to Student Media Online, but it failed with a 5-3-0 vote.
Ho Fung said during a phone call with PantherNOW Friday morning that the committee had divided opinions about the amount for the online request. The votes indicate the same.
Following this decision, Natteri moved to allocate $5,000 to Student Media Online Request. Again, the voting did not allow for this allocation. The vote came back 3-5-0.
Because the committee cannot vote on the same amount twice, they could not go back to an exact $2,000 funding option. Instead, Rosell moved to allocate $1,999 to Student Media Online Request. This motion passed with 7-1-0 and $1,999 allocated to Student Media Online. Naterri was the only one who did not vote for this amount.
So far, the budget for Student Media for the 2020-2021 fiscal year should be $271,999 total between the two requests.
So what happened?
The demand for money was higher than the actual money received by SGA to distribute.
“This year, the revenue from Activity & Service fees was not reflective of the demand,” said Ho Fung. “I think the demand was higher this year, we had a lot of new requests. Especially requests from the student centers, as well as other entities.”
Ho Fung said that it was difficult to have that conversation and reduce the amount of money that they had already decided on giving each organization.
“We had to make the best decisions in the moment that we had in the numbers that we had on the table,” she said.
Ultimately, Student Media was supposed to receive the $271,999 for next year, but “changes were made, and a vote was made at the end of the day,” said Ho Fung.
Hours after PantherNOW published an article explaining Student Media’s fourth consecutive budget cut, both Student Government Councils from Modesto Maidique and Biscayne Bay Campuses released statements explaining why and how the cuts happened.
However, the statements showed two different narratives.
In SGC-MMC’s statement, PantherNOW’s article was called “a blatant example of distasteful yellow journalism written for the purpose of circulating click bait.”
PantherNOW does not make any revenue or receive any funding based on clicks. It is one of the metrics presented at budget hearings, however.
According to the statement sent by Ho Fung, Rosell made the committee aware that she had been in meetings with Dean Brian Shriner of the College of Communication, Architecture + the Arts, and Senior Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Bejar, and discussed future collaborations between CARTA and Student Media.
“Sabrina updated the budget committee about the meeting with Dr. Bejar and Dean Schriner during the Student Media budget discussion in deliberations,” said Ho Fung.
However, in a meeting with PantherNOW Editor-in-Chief Gerard Albert III, Schriner made it clear that collaboration would mean faculty support, not financial.
Because of this assurance and due to confusion about Student Media’s online budget request, SGC-BBC said they voted against the initial increase and instead voted to decrease the budget to $260,000.
“The language [of the statement] made it seem like BBC was not going for an increase,” said Ho Fung, referring to the confusion caused by her statement. She explains that the first vote to bring Student Media to $270,000 was voted for unanimously. “But we did vote on a $270,000 increase that passed unanimously across the board,” she said.
SGC-BBC also called the statement by SGC-MMC an attempt to “disparage the intent of [their] BBC University-Wide Budget members in regard to PantherNOW” in their letter.
Student Media has been running on “reserve” funds for years, having to reduce the number of issues printed and reduce the salaries of directors and staff.
Student Media can run at a net-zero loss with a budget of $300,000. Since the budget has been below this number since 2018, they have had to rely on funds meant only for emergency circumstances to keep providing their services to the University community.
PantherNOW is aware that their budget did not decrease because Fraternity and Sorority Life’s budget increased, but pointed out the difference to illustrate changes made to the budget. Student Media’s budget comes from the University-Wide allocation of fees, which is voted on by both SGCs. FSL’s budget comes from campus-specific allocations and is only voted on by the SGC-MMC.
“This was never about not funding Greek Life. Things got ugly on social media, but that wasn’t the point we were making,” said Albert III.
Although this year’s cut may only be 1.89 percent, it has been reduced consistently over the past four years. The $5,000 removed from Student Media’s budget is enough to pay an entire director position for a full year with money left over.
“Even if we got $270,000 we’d still be losing money by existing. SGA can say what they want but that’s a fact,” said Albert III.
PantherNOW reached out to members of SGC-MMC for comment but they did not respond to multiple requests for comment.