The Gustavian Weekly

Senate approves separate Building Bridges fund

By Madison Pettit Staff Writer | March 18, 2012 | News

Building Bridges and the Student Senate have reached a decision regarding the funding process for Building Bridges that reasserts the student-led organization’s status as a signature event and part of Gustavus tradition.

Seventeen years ago, a group of students decided there needed to be an outlet on campus for stories pertaining to social issues not told in the mainstream to be told on campus. Working with numerous departments on campus, the first Building Bridges conference was held. Since then, the event grew to become the tradition that it is now; however, obstacles in the funding process coordinated by Student Senate have posed trouble for the yearly committees responsible for planning and putting together the annual conference.

“Both Student Senate and Building Bridges are well-run organizations. The problem was that we were running on completely different cycles that caused issues and headaches for both parties,” Junior Jessye Flannery, chair of the Student Senate Finance Committee, said.

It is not until the end of the academic year that the new co-chairs of the Building Bridges committee are chosen. The actual selection of a topic and possible speakers does not occur until after the end of the academic year. Because of this, Building Bridges in the past was unable to submit a budget that meets the acceptable guidelines allowing Senate to allocate money.

“Without a concrete quote from the proposed speaker or plans for the next conference, we are unable to get money for the speaker or for any other part of the conference until Senate reconvenes during the fall semester, which usually happens in October. We lose a lot of time in planning and inviting possible speakers without a budget until that late in the year,” Junior Kate Redden, public relations chair for Building Bridges, said. “We have done the best we could in the past with creating a budget, but because of the by-laws we were usually only able to get a very small portion of the money we actually needed at the time to start planning and inviting speakers.”

In an effort to alleviate these issues, Building Bridges has now broken off from Student Senate funding and will instead receive 4.5 percent of each student’s activity fee annually. CAB is an example of another organization funded in this manner. In three years, this change will be revisited and discussed in order to ensure that it is working properly and to campus satisfaction.

“Building Bridges has been a well-run conference and organization for 17 years now and has become a trademark of Gustavus. The new funding plan is a big step in embracing them as a conference that will be part of the Gustavus culture for years to come,” Flannery said.

The planning of the Building Bridges conference is expected to benefit greatly from the new funding method. Although the budget in the spring will serve as a close estimate until the final number of incoming students on campus is determined, it gives the committee a dollar amount to work with much earlier than before and to keep in mind when inviting speakers.

“Building Bridges will be able to start crafting a conference far earlier than ever before. This will allow for the next several conferences to be more organized in their approach. Future conferences could take on more difficult issues and more prestigious speakers could possibly present. The action piece will be more detailed and moving and a clearer message will be presented to the Gustavus community,” Senior Brandon Hirdler, Building Bridges Finance chair, said.

In cementing the Building Bridges conference’s status as a Gustavus signature event, both parties feel as though this change will ensure that Building Bridges will remain a professional and prestigious conference, perhaps expanding and changing in positive ways in the years to come.

“We are hoping that this really solves a lot of problems and that it will positively contribute to the organization’s growth. There is a lot of dedication that goes into this event from both the college and students,” Redden said. “This event is extremely important to campus because these conferences tell stories that otherwise might not be heard after graduation or in such safe environment. We feel as though this new funding process will really enable us to reach our goals.”