Remember Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias”? If you didn’t read it in a high school English class, it’s that poem Walter White recited in that one trailer for Breaking Bad. Anyway, it’s about a king who brags about this statue that he thinks will remind the world of his greatness for the rest of eternity, but at the time that the poet’s writing, the statue’s in ruins. The irony is that the poem, the idea, will last longer than any old physical statue.
SUS, like Ozymandias, has the most beautiful intentions with their Student Awards. Students and organizations who do good work at this university deserve to be recognized. And so they will, with plaques and $500 cheques.
The Student Awards are a good idea because they give back to the students who pay their student fees. Ideas like this also promote ambition and a sense of belonging in a university so full of apathetic students. And, perhaps years from now, students will look on the plaque with the names of all the recipients, and actually feel a sense of history at this place. All these things are indeed very important components of the university experience many of us imagined before coming to this little, context-free UFV.
However, the awards seem to me like unwise spending while SUS is unable, unwilling, or hesitant to fund student groups this year as much as they have in the past. One significant example is the Louden Singletree, UFV’s literary magazine, which in the past seven years has relied on SUS funding in order to publish and distribute physical copies, but is currently facing difficulties receiving anything close to the requested amount for this year. The Louden is currently one of the few institutions UFV has going for it in terms of creating a historical context and culture at UFV, and so deciding not to support it for the first time in nearly a decade seems counter to the purpose SUS proposes to drive towards in their Student Award nomination package: awarding students and groups that have “been integral to enhancing the UFV community” and “improved the experience at UFV for members and/or the broader student body.”
As a member of the Louden Singletree board this year, my frustration is perhaps a bit particular and biased. SUS’s caution with their funding is sort of understandable as they approach the end of their financial year. They have already spent $33,000 of their $50,000 budget for student organizations funding (according to their most recent financial report) and most large events happen near the end of the year, which approaches quickly. But my opinion still stands that the money reserved for the Student Awards could be better spent.
Besides the reception they have planned, the SUS Awards will cost three $500 cheques and three plaques of unknown price, each for a leader, volunteer, and student group, as well as an additional plaque to be displayed by SUS. Their budget has a line of $2,500 reserved for “Leadership Recognition,” as well as a $1,250 line for “Volunteer Recognition & Appreciation,” making for a total appreciation budget of $3,750. If I’m not mistaken, unless the reception planning is included with this and not with SUS events, and unless this appreciation budget refers to something other than the Student Awards, that leaves about $1,500 of unspent appreciation money. If SUS insists on offering these awards, could this remaining amount not go towards other, broader initiatives instead?
The SUS Awards only reward particular students, which I don’t think contributes to a better university experience for students in general. Certainly, the students who will end up receiving the awards will deserve it, and so I do not mean to dismiss whatever their contributions to the university have been, but let’s be real: awards are fundamentally political, and plaques are superfluous. What I mean is that whoever gets chosen will get chosen according to the preferences of SUS’s Awards Committee, not necessarily according to who will make best further use of the award, and that SUS’s current affinity for plaques is dumb.
Less hesitance to fund student endeavors would be much more useful for this place than directing money at students for things they have already contributed. The idea would really be better if there wasn’t such a crunch for funding; $3,750 could fund a lot of small projects, let alone contribute significantly to larger ones
It’s probably too late to back out of offering these awards now, sure. But for next year, the focus should be less on creating official-feeling awards and more on creating a university-feeling university, which includes student-run clubs, events, and publications. It is these things, and not plaques, that will grant UFV a more engaged campus life, and therefore a stronger sense of belonging, of context.
In summary, let’s have fewer statues, Ozymandias, and more poems.