Penny For The Loft?

    Since opening in Fall Quarter 2008, the Loft has hosted a wide variety of events, from punk concerts to wine tastings. During the 2009 presidential innaguaration, students gathered to watch President Barack Obama be sworn into office. Recently, indie/hip hop troupe Why? drew a packed house on Oct. 22.
    Since opening in Fall Quarter 2008, the Loft has hosted a wide variety of events, from punk concerts to wine tastings. During the 2009 presidential innaguaration, students gathered to watch President Barack Obama be sworn into office. Recently, indie/hip hop troupe Why? drew a packed house on Oct. 22.

    Barely a year after the A.S. Council declined to sponsor a student-fee referendum to fund the Loft — Price Center East’s year-old multipurpose venue — some councilmembers are reconsidering the request but discussing a possible effort to lower the proposed fee, which has climbed to $4.91.

    The A.S. Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs and chair of the University Centers Advisory Board Jordan Taylor, a member of the A.S. special committee currently discussing the proposed referendum, said councilmembers are working to determine an appropriate Loft fee using enrollment numbers. Based on recent figures provided by the Office of the Registrar, the committee suggested redistributing the fee from the originally proposed $4.91 for undergraduates to $4.47 for undergraduates and $3.82 for graduate students.

    Loft Director Martin Wollesen presented a similar referendum to the council during Winter Quarter 2009, but councilmembers voted to exclude the Loft fee — then proposed at $2.62 per student per quarter — from the A.S. activity-fee referendum, after determining that the Loft did not exhibit enough need compared to other items on the ballot.

    After Wollesen brought the request before the council a second time during Spring Quarter, the council once again denied the Loft a place on the spring ballot, this time due to concerns over a lack of student oversight in the venue’s operations. A.S. President Donna Bean was particularly reluctant to allocate student funds to a facility that did not have students on its board of managers.

    According to Taylor, oversight is once again a crucial issue in the discussion of this year’s referendum request.

    “It’s important to know who would oversee fees and make sure they would be spent correctly,” he said. “We’re trying to work with A.S. to determine the best setup and review language of oversight together.”

    However, A.S. President Utsav Gupta said discussion of oversight language is premature at this time.

    “We first need to find out if there should be a referendum at all,” he said. “Personally, I believe student oversight is key to any referendum to go through A.S. and a cause I want to continually advocate.”

    Wollesen said he, too, supports giving students a place in determining the the venue’s operations.

    “It is absolutely appropriate for students to provide oversight of the budget they fund,” he said. “We think this is a good thing.”

    Taylor suggested a system where students from organizations such as UCAB, Associated Students and the Graduate Student Association would have influence over Loft spending and re-approve budgets on a yearly basis.

    In this scenario, if the Loft accrued an excessive amount of debt, the board could reevaluate the budget and vote to redefine student contributions.

    “A referendum is essentially a contract to better the stuadents,” Taylor said. “We need to make sure we have some control over our money. For example, if the board says we’re not happy with how things are going and how money is being spent, we can say that those funds can’t be filled.”

    The Loft is currently financed by a combination of one-time funds from the Student Affairs Office, student registration fees and external sources of revenue such as profits from venue rental and ticket sales.

    According to Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Ed Spriggs, the Loft’s current location in Price Center East was originally planned as additional space for the Alumni Association.

    “When sufficient funding could not be raised from donations to fund that part of the construction, Student Affairs stepped in and essentially purchased the space from the campus,” he said, adding that the Student Affairs department provided money sufficient to fund three-quarters of Loft operations.

    Twenty-one percent of the Loft’s current operating budget is financed by registration fees, including the salaries of two full-time staffers.

    The venue’s other sources include funds contributed by A.S. Concerts & Events and University Centers, which both allocate roughly $30,000 per year to the Loft.

    Wollesen said current sources of funding are not enough to maintain Loft operations.

    “While the Reg Fee Committee is very supportive of the Loft, it does not have the resources to fund its event budget,” Wollesen said.

    As of Winter Quarter 2010, the venue will no longer have a major source of funding, which would result in fewer events, admission changes, rental charges for student organizations and student layoffs, he said. The A.S. referendum, if passed, would be the venue’s primary source of revenue, providing an additional $240,000 per year in funding — or 45 percent of the Loft’s proposed budget.

    The Loft created a street team in an effort to attract support for the fee increase. According to street-team member Desi Kalcheva, this quarter’s project is to raise awareness of the referendum.

    “We go to people to educate them on why we’re unique and need funding,” Kalcheva said.

    The council will vote on referendum specifics on Dec. 3.

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