Student Fees Investigation: Student-funded grants resume for faculty

Haydee Barahona, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Graphic by Haydee Barahona / The Runner

California State University, Bakersfield charges students a $183 Instructionally Related Activities fee. While certain categories at CSUB automatically receive IRA funding, faculty also have the opportunity to apply for a portion of what is leftover to support their courses and provide experiential opportunities to students.  

From 2015 to 2019, the IRA grant pool ranged from $88,000 to $105,000, according to CSUB’s IRA Budget. However, in 2020, CSUB only collected about $60,000 for IRA grants. 

As the number of students enrolled in the university during the COVID-19 pandemic decreased, so did the annual revenue in IRA grant money. 

“While these fees might have been larger, they would have been had we been on track to having the same amount of students that we had in 2018,” said Ilaria Pesco, executive director of ASI. 

CSUB also stopped the disbursement of the IRA grant in 2021 following a court at CSU San Marcos in which a pro-life club was denied funding, Pesco explained. 

Now, each committee member must go through viewpoint-neutral training to ensure that no viewpoints are used in their decision to allocate the funds. After two years, CSUB’s IRA grant process has started back up again. 

“There wasn’t clear guidance from the Chancellor’s Office as to how we were supposed to be able to disperse those funds. So, those funds would roll over to this year. Actually, this year, we’ll have more money to support events and programs now that we are able to get the committee back together,” said Pesco.  

The IRA grant application for the 2022-2023 academic year closed on Feb. 20. Pesco said that the committee will meet in March to review the applications.  

The IRA committee consists of three faculty members and three students who will take a vote to decide on the awards. The ASI President chairs this committee.  

The committee’s goal is to fund as many projects as possible, but some projects will not be funded if they are not tied to a course, said Pesco. 

If a project has met the IRA policies and criteria, it would be eligible for funding. However, there is also a limited amount of grant money, so the project may not receive the exact amount of funding requested, explained Pesco.  

The Runner has also been an IRA grant recipient in the past. 

Before the IRA application opens, the IRA funding must be dispersed to certain areas on campus, like tutoring and advising for CSUB Athletics. 

CSUB Athletics received about $460,000 in IRA funding in 2021, according to the IRA budget. This portion of the money funds the Kegley Center for Student Success. 

Portions of the IRA budget also fund the academic technology, Academic Advising and Resource Center, and Writing Resource Center.     

Roughly 95% of the IRA funding the WRC receives is used to hire student staff, said Jacob Whitaker, WRC coordinator. 

The WRC was still operating just as busily during the pandemic as it ever had, just with less overall funding, said Whitaker. 

“We found that during the pandemic, students were looking for support more than ever. So, we were doing more tutoring, and a lot of our tutoring time was social more than anything else, where students were checking in and looking for someone to talk to about the experiences they’ve had,” said Whitaker. 

Fine arts also receive IRA funding for exhibits and productions on campus, in accordance with the IRA Guidelines. Like the IRA grant pool, the IRA funding for Fine Arts also decreased significantly after the COVID-19 pandemic, from about $120,000 in 2019 and $76,000 in IRA funding in 2020. 

According to the IRA Budget, Fine Arts received about $80,000 in 2021. 

Mandy Rees, theatre program coordinator, said that she thinks everyone was impacted by the COVID-pandemic, and there was some confusion on whether the program would receive funding. The program hosted Zoom productions but also spent conservatively. 

“The IRA funding is terrific to have, and we hope that students see the benefits from it,” said Rees. 

All of the operational costs of the Todd Madigan Gallery are funded through the IRA grant, said Jedediah Caesar, gallery director and curator. 

Caesar has also applied for the IRA grant once before, he explained, but couldn’t use it because the exhibition didn’t go through. 

“The only time I’ve ever done it is when I feel like we just couldn’t do a project unless we got a little bit more of that support,” said Caesar.