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Participatory Budgeting Proposal (CFA)

Since Spring 2020, the federal government has granted San Francisco State University more than $88 million in “institutional support” monies through three rounds of Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds.  This is money apart from state appropriations and is granted directly to higher education institutions. 

Faculty, staff, and students have weathered a tough year of major disruptions to work and home life, economic distress, anxiety, and illness.   We believe the HEERF monies must be budgeted to directly address the critical needs of faculty, staff, and students.  To that end, we propose that CFA, CSUEU, ASI, and the Academic Senate join together with SFSU administration in an Ad Hoc Emergency Relief Funding Committee to collaboratively budget the HEERF.   

About HEERF. The federal monies have come through three rounds of funding: HEERF 1 in March 2020 directed $14 million to SFSU; HEERF 2 (December 2020) gave SFSU $33 million; SFSU is estimated to receive $41 million through “HEERF 3” (part of the Biden Administrations March 2021 American Rescue Plan). The $74 million dollars received in this academic year represents about a 20% increase to the SFSU budget.  

Some important things to know about the HEERF monies:

  • these are “one time” budget additions; we will not receive another $77 million next year
  • HEERF monies must be used to defray expenses associated with the coronavirus, including lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff trainings, and payroll
  • HEERF monies can also be used to carry out student support activities authorized by the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), that address needs related to coronavirus.  
  • in general, as the U.S. Department of Education notes, institutions have expanded flexibility in their use of supplemental institutional portion funds under HEERF 2 and HEERF 3, as compared to HEERF 1

About the Ad Hoc Emergency Relief Funding Committee. Typically, faculty, staff, and students play little direct role in SFSU’s actual budgeting process.  The University Budget Committee (UBC), for instance, is charged with providing the SF State President advice and recommendations related to budget policy, planning, and assessment; in practice, UBC is the place where the administration presents powerpoints to a tiny audience of select faculty, staff, and students.  

We believe instead that the university should move to a more participatory budgeting process, one that empowers SF State community members to decide together how to spend money to support our core mission – - the education of students.  The Ad Hoc Emergency Relief Funding Committee represents a first step toward this goal.

Here’s how we think the Ad Hoc Committee would work:

  • The committee would be comprised of representatives of SFSU’s primary stakeholders – - faculty, staff, and students, i.e. CFA, CSUEU, ASI, the SFSU Academic Senate, and university administration. 
  • The committee would be charged with budgeting the entirety or a significant portion of the $74 million in HEERF monies.
  • Each stakeholder representative would present a portfolio of budget proposals – - gleaned from their constituents – -  that fall within the HEERF guidelines to the committee.
  • The committee would deliberate over these proposals and vote for or against proposed items.
  • Once endorsed by the committee, these proposals would be funded from the HEERF monies.

We ask you to join in supporting this proposal.  The participatory budgeting process outlined in the proposal remedies gaps in administrative priorities and knowledge.  It can also lead to more equitable and innovative support for faculty, staff, and students.  Finally, the Ad Hoc Committee Emergency Relief Funding Committee can create new and better relations among university constituencies, thus strengthening democracy and renewing the social justice mission of San Francisco State University.