Loft Looks to Student Fees for Funding

NEWS-mattandkim-20090208134430-2-EJOpen since Fall Quarter 2008, the Loft — Price Center’s music, culture and art space — is still without a permanent source of funding. Administrators are hoping that a new University Centers programming fee would provide the venue with the revenue it needs to continue operation.

The referendum, which would redefine the University Centers charter to allow its funding to go toward event-based programming, is currently being considered by the University Events Advisory Board and will be discussed by the A.S. Council.

Both University Events Office Director Marty Wollesen and Paul Terzino of the University Centers Advisory Board said that without a permanent source of funding, the Loft may have to lay off student employees, host fewer events and eliminate the pay-as-you-can system, charging students for concerts at the door.

A.S. President Utsav Gupta stated that the proposed programming fee initiative would have the Loft report to University Centers. Gupta said that the proposal is still in its early stages of discussion, and he has not yet formed a stance on the initiative.

Currently, the Loft is running off of funds from multiple sources, including the University Events Office, the Student Affairs Cluster and the Registration Fee Committee. Although these departments have been supportive so far, they won’t be able to fund the venue permanently.

The Registration Fee Committee has provided funding to support two staff positions and funding to purchase lighting and audio equipment, but can’t pay for events. Also, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny Rue gave the Loft one-time funding that will last for three quarters, but can’t provide on-going support.

Receiving funding from student fees would be the most reliable on-going source of support for the Loft.

“A proposal to establish a modest student fee would be the most reliable source of the needed [funds] to bring quality performers to the Loft several nights a week with no admission charge to students,” Wollesen said.

Ideally, Wollesen would like to see Loft events sponsored by a combination of funds from University Centers — $30,000 a year — with student fees and rent paid by a future restaurant that Wollesen plans to open at the venue.

Last year, the Loft’s financial troubles led Wollesen to ask the A.S. council to put a $2.62 per quarter Loft fee referendum on the spring ballot for students to vote on. However, due to concerns about student oversight, the council refused to put the issue before the student body.

The current fee referendum is similar, except the money would go directly to the Loft instead of being channeled through the A.S. council.

The Loft’s use of numerous funding sources has sparked controversy over its experimental business model.

Former A.S. President Donna Bean had described the Loft’s business methods as “fiscally irresponsible.” When asked about Bean’s comment, Gupta says that her concern could have stemmed from the fact that the Loft’s numerous funding sources make it unclear as to who the Loft should report to.

However, Wollensen sees benefits in the Loft’s business model and described it as “… very sound [because it] … relies not just on one source of support, but multiple sources.”

There is a possibility that the Loft could run an independent referendum, but according to Gupta, it is unlikely that it would pass.

Traditionally, most referenda are introduced through the A.S. council because it is simpler. If a proposal has to go through the administration, there are more points at which it could fail because of all the different levels of bureaucracy. Students are more likely to vote on referenda supported by the A.S. council, according to Gupta.

However, an independent referendum may not be necessary. In the most recent report from the Registration Fee Advisory Committee, the committee listed the Loft as one of the highest funding priorities.

According to the report, which gives recommendations for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, an item of “highest priority” means that it “ … should be insulated from any budget reductions.”

The report goes on to mention the student interest in what the Loft does.

“[The Loft has] garnered great positive feedback from students and provides specific and directed programs to improve nightclub life,” the report said.

Readers can contact Lara McCaffrey at [email protected].

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