ERC student council allocated $7,500 for annual retreats; almost double that of all other councils

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The Student Council for Eleanor Roosevelt College (SCERC) allotted $7,500 of its yearly budget to its annual council retreat fund this school year, compared to Warren, Muir, Revelle and Marshall which allocated $3,969, $500, $308 and $473 respectively. While the Sixth College Council is still working on their year-long budget, they designated $519 last year.

The funds that student councils use for their retreats come from quarterly student activity fees from the current year and any rollover funds from the previous year.

SCERC President Chase DiBenedetto noted that the $7,500 was designed to cover two retreats: an optional daytime spring retreat on campus, along with a two-night fall retreat off campus. ERC is the only college council retreat fund to allocate for potentially two retreats and the only council to host a two-night retreat.

Of the $7,500 allocated, only $6,920 was actually used for the fall retreat, according to ERC Dean of Student Affairs Trish Scott. Scott said she did not have access to the funds spent for the spring retreat, but noted that the retreats did not exceed the $7,500 budget.

In comparison, Revelle College Council hosted a single one-day fall retreat on campus, and spent a total of $266.49 for administrative supplies and dinner. The council also attended an off-site team building activity at the cost of $508 through the President’s account.

Marshall College Council allocated no funds in their budget for their single, one-day council retreat on campus. Marshall Dean of Student Affairs Bernard Anderson chose to fund the food and beverages for the retreat from his budget, and with 44 members in attendance, the retreat totalled $473.10.

Muir had $500 allocated for one, one-day retreat on campus. The total cost was $382.75 for lunch and administrative items for the 27-30 people who attended.

DiBenedetto stated that one of the reasons the SCERC budget for the retreat was significantly more than other councils was because SCERC has many more members. SCERC has 50 members. Marshall and Warren college councils both have 46 members, Muir has 32, Revelle has 36, and Sixth has 37.

The total approximate breakdown of the SCERC retreat cost per person was about $138, meaning if SCERC had only 30 members, the cost would still be $4,152. This amount would still exceed the allotted budgets of any other college council.

“We’re the only ones that did a retreat that was two nights,” DiBenedetto said. “And we’re also a larger council, and that factors into cost because we pay per person, and then additionally, we went farther than most people; a lot of the councils stayed in La Jolla. Ours was just a bigger retreat generally, and that’s why the price goes up.”

The cost for overnight lodging and four meals per person for the SCERC retreat totalled $5,719 and the transportation cost was $1,201, according to Scott. This transportation cost was attributed to new University Risk Management rules.

“Because Risk Management has indicated that it is a more appropriate manner and a safer manner of transporting students to hire a coach to take them rather than having to potentially drive their own cars and be potentially in an accident,” Scott said.

The council could not host the retreat closer to campus or on campus, Scott said, because the types of overnight retreat facilities the council needs are typically in the Julian area.

“Trying to find a location that can accommodate upwards of 50 individuals that will provide meals and team building facilities and meeting space and lodging that would fit within the budget that we had is extremely difficult.”

Scott said it has been a standard practice for over 20 years for SCERC to take a two night retreat in the Julian area.

According to DiBenedetto, between 2011-12 and last year, the council decided not to do an overnight fall retreat. This led to problems where council members were not able to learn everything they needed. Last year was the first year SCERC brought back the overnight retreat of one night, DiBenedetto said.

After feedback from last year’s overnight retreat, DiBenedetto said SCERC decided to bring back the two-night fall retreat this year.

Warren College Council (WCC), with 46 members, was the only other council to have an overnight retreat, which was held off campus with a total cost of $3,969 for one night, just over half of SCERC’s expenditures for two nights.

Council president Ankit Vyas said the council decided to do an overnight retreat in order to allot more time to team building and bonding to foster cooperation and openness between members.

“I think there’s definitely more of a sense of transparency […] I think a good change of climate because a lot of the people that we do appoint don’t necessarily know each other […] so it builds more trust with each other,” said Lilian Fong, the Vice President Internal of WCC.

When asked why two nights were necessary, DiBenedetto said SCERC members were ill-prepared to be effective without both nights. Yet, SCERC is the only one of six councils to spend more than one night on a retreat.

“For as much positive feedback as we got last year, it still felt like we didn’t learn as much as we could have, because basically half of that time was travel and everything,” DiBenedetto said.

Travel time from UCSD to Julian is about an hour and a half each way.

“There’s so much you have to know,” Vice President External Ashley Awe said. “You really have to have a two night retreat. There’s just not enough time otherwise.”

Natasha Vyhovsky is the Assistant News Editor for The Triton.