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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

BTV vies for almost 150% budget increase

Published: March 11, 2005
Section: News

Brandeis Television (BTV), a Secured media organization, has announced plans to put forth a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would more than double their guaranteed yearly Student Activities Fee allocation.

The amendment would increase BTVs funding from 1.87% of the SAF to 4.51% by taking away money from the Justice, the Archon yearbook, WBRS, and Student Events, the campus programming board. Using this years figures, BTV would receive $41,593.50 instead of the current $17,253.09.

A constitutional amendment must be signed by 10 Union senators or 15% of the student body in order to appear on the ballot. On Thursday BTV submitted the signatures of over 600 students, making their amendment proposal eligible to appear on the ballot during the Spring Student Union elections.

If the amendment passes, using this years figures, the Justice would lose $2,804.79 or approximately one issues worth of funding, Archon would lose $3,851.63, WBRS $4,138.41 and Student Events $10,234.00. BEMCo and Waltham Group are the only two Secured Organizations left untouched by the amendment. While the amendment gained support of Student Events, the Justice and Archon have said they are opposed to it. WBRS has chosen not to released a public statement at this time.

At the beginning of this school year we realized that to achieve a lot of our goals, we needed to have more money in our hands and so I set the challenge to the entire BTV to prove it to the Brandeis community, former BTV president Nate Westheimer 05 told The Hoot. We think we have proven it and so weve decided to go ahead with the amendment to get allocate more money that BTV is constitutionally allowed.
Westheimer sent an e-mail Tuesday informing the affected clubs that BTV is bringing forth the amendment. Since then, several of the affected organizations expressed dismay that they were not consulted on how the amendment will affect them.

The email sent to me by Nate was the first I heard of the proposal, Justice Editor-in-chief David Fudman 07 told The Hoot. Though that message presented the plan in a professional manner, I was disappointed that BTV did not approach the Justice, as well as the Archon, WBRS and Student Events, to see what effect the budget cuts they have proposed for those organizations would have on their operations and services.
Archon Editor Shu-Yee Chen 05 also told The Hoot that Archon was never approached about the amendment prior to Tuesday. According to Chen, BTV never ascertained how the proposed cuts would affect their organization.

I feel that BTV should have called for a media group meeting first before they propose this amendment instead of making all the other media groups feel alarmed after hearing this and ask for an immediate meeting next week to discuss this issue, Chen said.

Assistant Dean of Students Alwina Bennett has called a meeting of the media advisory board, of which The Hoot is a member, to discuss the BTV amendment. The meeting is currently scheduled for next Wednesday.
Westheimer confirmed that BTV did not approach the affected groups prior to releasing their amendment.
The important thing for us was to make this fair, and from our prior experiences we knew that some groups would start asking for exceptions, and we didnt want this to be political, Westheimer said. We wanted this to be fair so we wanted this to be across the board, with all major media organizations and entertainment organizations. So by making it across the board and equal we felt like we didnt need to approach them.

Two years ago a constitutional amendment proposed by BTV passed, moving that organization from a chartered group to a secured major media group and granting it almost $15,000 per year for operating expenses.

Students Events is the only affected organization to publicly support the proposal. Director of Student Events Arielle Rosner 05 told The Hoot that Student Events budget would only be minimally affected because of the amount of money Student Events already gives to BTV.

Student Events currently has a co-sponsorship agreement with BTV in which we fund their film series, Rosner said. We make it possible for the station to show new movies on a monthly basis. If this amendment passes, BTV will have their own funding to put towards their movie series.

According to Westheimer, BTV looked at percentages rather than raw numbers when deciding on how to structure the new proposal. He told the Hoot that the goal of the proposal was to fund BTV at a sustainable level without unduly impacting the other secured groups.

Five percent is a number that has minimal budgetary consequences and it also allows us to reach a dollar amount per year that will allow BTV to continue to grow, he said.

Both Archon and the Justice dispute this claim. According to Fudman, the Justice is already insufficiently funded and a cut of 5% would be unwise.

Currently, the Justice receives a few thousand dollars less than what it costs us to physically print the paper each week, Fudman told the Hoot. All other costs — office supplies, reporting and review expenses, photography supplies, computer maintenance and upgrades, staff event and recruitment expenses and a slew of other items must be paid for with other revenue sources.

Losing almost $3,000 means a significant cut somewhere in our budget, whether
in the number of issues we print, the number of events we can cover, or elsewhere, Fudman said. This substantial cut could prevent us from delivering important and time-sensitive news to the community, especially if it means we must reduce the number of issues we print per year.

With the proposed change, either Archon will have to reduce the number of pages in the yearbook by cutting out some club representations and sport teams, or reduce the senior section, which is currently the largest section of the yearbook, Chen said.

Westheimer dismissed the complaints. Will these organizations have to make adjustments? Absolutely. Everyone makes adjustments, he said. Every single club has to make adjustments, this is about is helping BTV move forward with the tremendous amount of progress theyve been making over the past three years.
Westheimer claims that BTV needs the additional money to build a new studio, create a second all movies channel, and purchase professional grade equipment to replace more inexpensive consumer-grade video cameras and editing systems.

Continuing to operate at current levels, would be like Student Events doing their events with a Karaoke machine bought at Wal-Mart, Westheimer said. We want to upgrade into professional quality equipment like every other major media organization has.

BTV this year switched from using a three year old programmable broadcast system purchased for it by the University to airing shows instead by playing them on a Windows PC. Under the new system, shows are played on a random rotation rather than on a pre-set schedule.

In an article in the Oct. 26, 2004 issue of the Justice, Westheimer claimed that BTV was working on several new shows, including the return of the previously popular Residence Strife and the creation of a new political game show. Neither new program has aired on BTV, although The Beat, a news show, has aired nine episodes, according to the BTV web site.

Westheimer said he was absolutely confident [the proposed amendment] will pass.

This is the second time BTV has proposed cuts to Archon in a constitutional amendment. Last time, the proposal to reduce Archon funding was removed after heavy protest from Archon staff in front of the Union Senate. Instead BTV only asked for money that was allocated to The Watch, which at that point had stopped printing. That amendment passed with an overwhelming margin granting BTV secured status for the first time in University history.

For the new amendment to pass, it will need to be ratified by 2/3 of the student population in a referendum vote which will most likely occur in conjunction with one of the rounds of Student Union balloting. BTV has an option to withdraw the amendment at this Sundays Senate meeting. Following the presentation at that meeting, the Union Secretary will be constitutionally mandated to put the proposal up for vote within 15 academic days.