For the second year in a row, the Student Council for Eleanor Roosevelt College (SCERC) allocated $7,500 of student fees for its annual leadership retreat.
Last year, SCERC allocated exactly the same amount for its retreat, almost double that of any other student councils, and expended $6,920 on the fall trip that took place between November 3 and November 5. Similar to last year, the SCERC leadership retreat is a two-day overnight trip in Julian, California, and most of the budget goes toward food, lodging, and transportation, according to SCERC President Christian Lum. During the retreat, students discuss logistics and participate in bonding activities and training sessions, and Lum believes holding the retreat off-campus is most effective in strengthening student relationships.
“While having a smaller scale on-campus retreat would surely be cheaper, it would not create the bonds necessary to run an effective council,” Lum said. “Additionally, going off-campus for retreat helps our members leave all of their responsibilities and stresses on campus for the weekend. This allows our members to fully focus on the material and activities presented at retreat without any distractions.”
Unless there is an implication that the other college councils are not effective, it is still unclear how SCERC justifies spending $7,500 campus on campus retreats, when other colleges are able to host retreats with significantly less (or no) funding. The funds that student councils use for retreats come from quarterly student activity fees from the current year and any rollover funds from the previous year.
SCERC has 50 members on its roster and is the largest college council out of all six colleges. Muir College Council has 33 members, Revelle College Council has 34, Sixth College Council has 38, Marshall College Council has 43, and Warren College Student Council (WCSC) has 53.
Muir, Revelle, and Sixth set aside $3,725, $1,500, and $923.40, respectively, for their leadership retreats. Marshall College allotted nothing in its budget for their retreat.
This year, WCSC allocated $3869.15 for its one-night, off-campus trip from October 27 to October 28 and was the only other college to have an overnight leadership retreat. In a similar vein, the council also spent $30,000 on a commemorative plaque last year near Geisel Library at the entrance to their college.
ERC students pay an activity fee like all others and are charged $10 in the fall quarter and $12.50 in winter and spring quarters. The $7,500 for retreat is taken out of SCERC’s annual budget, 3.65 percent of its $205,200 total expenditure. They allocate funding to other activities and resources as well, for example: $2,000.00 for the Food Pantry and $9,000.00 to International Women’s Week.
Jesus Fernandez, current SCERC secretary, said that from his previous experience, the trip is a work retreat. According to Fernandez, the first night addresses the goal of the retreat and includes icebreakers. The first full day involves learning methods and procedures for event planning, council attendance, council finances, and ERC entities and organizations, as well as setting goals for the year. The second full day includes practice on creating and presenting programs and mock meetings.
Throughout the trip, members participate in bonding activities, such as the egg drop game, tic-tac-toe, and paper trail activities, according to Tracy Tran, current SCERC director of special events.
In the past, SCERC has tried to eliminate the overnight fall retreat or cut the duration of the trip, but after analyzing feedback and problems with these changes, SCERC decided to continue hosting a two-night trip, according to previous SCERC President Chase DiBenedetto in an article discussing the same incident that occurred last year.
The presidential candidates on the two slates running for SCERC president, Tran for Roosevelt’s Reach and Fernandez for Eleanor’s Excellence, both agree that this allocation of student funds is necessary to build strong student leadership. Tran and Fernandez are both current members of the SCERC.
“Historically, the Student Council of ERC is the only college that has never had financial struggles even accounting for the budget set aside for retreats,” Tran said. “We remain fiscally responsible allocating such funds and are continuously recognized as a college council that prioritizes programming and active involvement.”
However, Tran said that if elected, she would want to allot $7,500 for a leadership retreat while looking for cheaper venues. Fernandez said that if elected, he would also continue this program and set aside $7,500 for the retreat.
“The Council acknowledges that this number is large and that it does take a significant portion from student fees,” Fernandez said. “For that reason alone, the retreat is one of the most critiqued events within Council as well. After much discussion, the Council recognizes the importance of the retreat and therefore chooses to keep investing in it, despite much backlash.”
Cynthia Leung is a Staff Writer for The Triton.
Editor’s Note: This article previously stated SCERC was the smallest college council based on outdated SCERC website information. This article has also been updated with information received from WCSC: exact retreat expenditure, membership count, and council initialism.