Fee aims to add to student wellness

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On February 15, Student Government Association voted to create the Wellness Committee, an entirely new body of SGA with the goal of increasing student wellness campus-wide.

The Wellness Committee will be in charge of the funds SGA receives from the Wellness Fee, though the committee is merely a governing body in what is meant to be a program spearheaded by student engagement.

The Wellness Fee is a $90-per-semester fee that every undergraduate student pays as part of enrollment in a semester of classes. The Wellness Fee was created in January 2010 as a means to pay debt incurred by the creation of the Medical Center Outdoor Complex, renovations to Simon Recreation Center, and the Student Health and Counseling program, as well as funding “alcohol prevention programming and other wellness related initiatives,” according to Senate Bill 057-12.

A portion of the fee, roughly $100,000, was also given to SGA yearly in order to promote student-based wellness programming.

Every year Chartered Student Organizations apply for funding through SGA. The money that SGA allocates to each CSO is drawn from the Student Activity Fee, a charge of $55 a semester paid by every undergraduate. This amount was recently increased by $10 per semester by a referendum added to the SGA executive board elections held this year.

In the past two years, SGA used the funds given to it by the Wellness Fee in order to provide extra money in the yearly funding process for Chartered Student Organizations. Citing the fact that the Wellness Fee was never meant to support the Activity Fee and that a source of funding with the intent of promoting student wellness would benefit the SLU student body, SGA voted to create the Wellness Fee Committee. With the creation of the committee, the Wellness Fee money was separated entirely from the Activity Fee money.

SGA Financial Vice President elect Elect Vidur Sharma will chair the Wellness Committee next year. According to SGA President elect Blake Exline, he and seven other senators or committee representatives will be voting members of the committee. There will also be a Student Wellness Fee Advisory Group, comprising the SGA president, financial vice-president and three other members appointed by the president. This advisory group will be made up of five administrators or faculty and five students, and this will be the body that votes on the allocation of all money from the wellness fee.

“SGA will work with students to get them in touch with collaborations throughout the University and to ensure their initiative is successful,” said Matt Ryan, the current SGA president. “SGA will be a collaborator and serve as an empowering group with interested students.”

Allocation of funding is guided by the University’s definition of wellness, stated as “the condition of good physical, mental and spiritual health.” Only undergraduate students are eligible to apply for funding from the Wellness Committee, but students may apply as individuals or groups, including CSOs. In order to apply a student need only submit a proposal to the Wellness Fee Committee.

The proposal form is relatively simple and easy to understand. It gives an outline for what a grant proposal submitted to SGA ought to include. All applicants are required to give a detailed outline of their project goals, how their project will work, what money will be necessary and how the money will be spent. Applicants are also to give a metric for their initiative in order to measure the success of the project as compared to the original goals.

The Wellness Committee requires quarterly reports within the time-frame of their project as a condition of receiving funding, and any student granted funding must present a summary of the project upon completion. The actual approval of a grant is only suggested by the Wellness Committee: all proposals must be passed by the senate.

SGA wants to highlight the fact that Wellness Grants are entirely student-led, and taking advantage of the money given to SGA by the Wellness Fee is contingent on students’ active participation.

Examples of wellness initiatives mentioned on the proposal form are a bike-share program, implementation of monthly blood pressure checks by medical school students and a public awareness campaign promoting and training meditation techniques for stress relief. Students may begin to apply for Wellness Grants in the fall.

Ryan is excited about the Wellness Fee and the power it gives to students.

“I think you will see innovative, collaborative and exciting initiatives,” said Ryan. “We have so many students studying different aspects of wellness that these dollars will become a chance for these students to put what they are learning in the classroom in to real life, and better our living on this campus.”

“It is our hope that we are flooded with applications for wellness grants with students excited to develop different projects and/or events to benefit the SLU community,” said Exline, who is also optimistic about the possibilities of the Wellness Committee.