Pickard lists fiscal priorities for budget in semesterly State of Senate address

Tufts Community Union (TCU) President Duncan Pickard began the Senate’s spring term on Sunday with a focus on how the body should adapt to the deteriorating financial climate. Pickard specifically highlighted the need to reevaluate campus-wide expenses and to preserve the student body’s socioeconomic and cultural diversity.

“One of the most direct challenges to our work in student government is the national recession,” Pickard said in his State of the Senate address. “In this way, we are truly impacted by policy and practice in Washington and New York.”

His address was accompanied by a list of priorities and concerns, set forth by Pickard and the rest of the Senate’s executive board.

As a top priority to cushion the economic impact on students, the Senate will look to make campus life more affordable, partly through efforts to lower food costs.

“Dining costs should not be competitive with the surrounding community; they should reflect that eating is essential to life on campus and is provided as a service — not a business — to students,” the list read.

The priorities list noted that monitoring on-campus prices is particularly important in light of the Senate’s efforts to preserve the school’s socioeconomic diversity.

“The last two classes were admitted need-blind, and a record eleven percent of freshmen for the past two years attend Tufts on Pell Grants to families who earn less than $40,000 annually. We need to have a richer conversation about what life of campus is like in the context of our changing socioeconomic realities,” it read.

Socioeconomic diversity is not the only concern of the Senate however.The list also talked about diversity in a broader sense, noting, “[The] Senate this semester will continue to work with other students and the administration to create learning opportunities across perceived boundaries … and to engage the campus in a healthy conversation about race and diversity.”

The list of priorities further indicated that one of the Senate’s challenges is to enhance awareness of Tufts’ health and wellness resources. “The Senate will work to clarify Tufts’ policy on health and alcohol issues … and advertise existing opportunities designed to make students more health-conscious,” they noted.

The executive board also hopes to focus the Senate’s efforts on improving the quality of dorm life, arguing, “The residential facilities that Tufts provides its undergraduate are not adequate.” They specifically suggested interior facelifts, as money for larger projects remains scarce.

While Pickard and other Senate executives focused heavily on economic challenges, the Senate has been somewhat insulated from the effects of the ailing economy.

The group has received an $687,780 in the wake of the embezzlement scandal, $87,780 of which is free for use this year. These extra funds have provided the group with additional opportunities to allocate money to student groups and to protect jeopardized traditions like the Gantcher Center dinner for freshmen.

A second opportunity came from a larger-than-expected freshman class. When senators budgeted for this year, they foresaw a smaller Class of 2012 than what actually materialized. Consequently, they expected fewer contributors to the Student Activities Fee and a smaller overall pot.

Now that more money is available, they have allocated $25,000 in additional buffer funding for student groups.