Pitzer Students Vote To Buy Geodesic Dome With Senate Fund

Graphic by Dominic Frempong

Pitzer College students voted to use the Pitzer Senate’s first Student Initiative Fund (SIF) to fund a geodesic dome structure, an ice machine, a swing set, and hammocks, the Senate announced Feb. 2.

The $10,000 initiative fund was created in 2017 to make it easier for Pitzer students, not just student senators, to access the money in Pitzer Senate’s reserve fund, according to Dana Nothnagel PZ ’19, a member of the SIF committee.

Dan Hirsch, the associate dean of students at Pitzer, proposed the SIF after seeing success with a similar idea at Grinnell College, where he previously worked, Nothnagel said.

“[The student reserve fund] is for big capital projects — that’s gone towards things like building the talking circle, getting a new fence for the garden,” she said. “In order to access that money you need to write a bill, and you need to know the ins and outs of senate to do that. We thought that this $10,000 pool would make people more interested in spending the money.”

The SIF is funded from the Senate’s reserve fund, made up of leftover funds from previous years’ Student Activities Funds. The Student Activities Fund is paid for by $135 semesterly student activity fees charged to each student. This year’s Student Activities Fund totals $270,000, according to the Senate’s annual budget proposal.

Students ultimately ranked their top choices as a geodesic dome structure for hammocks that would cost $4,950, an ice machine for West Hall that would cost $1,900, an adult swing set that would cost $2,000, and three hammocks costing a total of $180.

Despite the student ballot results, the projects are still tentative pending the submission of more detailed plans by the proposers, wrote Isaiah Kramer PZ ’20, the other member of the SIF committee, in an email to TSL.

“The final roster of approved projects should be sent out by the end of this month,” he wrote. “I can guarantee that the initial results will not come to fruition — results are yet to be finalized.”

If the proposers fail to provide an implementation plan, money from the SIF will be transferred down the ballot to the next ranked projects, Kramer wrote. Final approvals for the geodesic dome and the ice machine will be determined next week.

The Senate aims to complete all of the initiatives it selects by the end of the semester, if not sooner, Kramer said.

Kramer said the SIF was intended to involve more Pitzer students in spending decisions by allowing them to propose projects.

“Pitzer is a unique institution given the strong hand the student body holds in shaping our campus. I believe that students, through their daily engagement with our campus, come up with the best ideas to make it better,” he wrote. “Each student pays in $270 to the Student Activities Fund [each year]. ... I believe that Senate has a duty to ensure that students get something in return for every one of the dollars that they put into the SIF.”

However, the student body at Pitzer failed to get involved with the SIF to the extent senators had hoped, Nothnagel said. No members of the Pitzer student body outside of Senate applied to join the SIF committee, of which Nothnagel and Kramer are the only two members.

The committee did, however, receive numerous proposals for projects, which the committee then evaluated for feasibility.

“We went through with [Hirsch] and just talked through which things are actually feasible and which aren’t,” Nothnagel said. “Some projects had already tried to happen and they failed, other projects were already happening on campus.”

For the projects that were actually determined to be feasible, the SIF committee solicited more detail from the students that had proposed them.

The Senate sent out an SIF ballot with 14 proposed projects, ranging from lights on the volleyball court, to slacklines, to a soundproof music room that the committee determined could be feasible. Nearly 50 percent of Pitzer students voted in the ballot, according to Nothnagel, ranking the projects in terms of desirability.