SSIS faces obstacles as they accommodate newly downsized budget
The Student Sexuality Information Service budget was cut by almost half of what they received last year, leaving its staff to adjust.
For the 2023-24 school year, the Student Sexuality Information Service received a significantly smaller budget than they had in 2022-23. While they received a slightly larger budget than they had in previous years, they have seen an uptick in the demand for their services that is not easily supported by this allocation. SSIS, located on the third floor of the Shapiro Campus Center, offers subsidized products and services such as emergency contraception, sexual pleasure products, barrier methods, and confidential peer support. They also have outreach and training initiatives, as well as a library.
For the 2022-23 school year, SSIS received $50,700 as their allocated budget. This year, they requested an increase to $69,000, “which reflects the substantial growth we have experienced over the past few years and was thoroughly supported with evidence of our organization’s expenses, such as emergency contraceptive, barrier methods, and other product costs” SSIS staff said in an Oct. 30 email correspondence with the Justice. However, the Allocations Board approved $25,000 — less than a third of their initial request. Following an appeals process, SSIS ultimately secured a budget of $30,000 for this year. “This allocation limits our ability to meet the needs of the community,” they explained.
Last April, multiple clubs encountered significant budget reductions due to the depletion of overall funds following the expiration of COVID-19 rollover funding. Between the first round of Spring Marathon and budget appeals, clubs requested a total of $2,912,000, of which the Allocations Board approved $1,476,415 — approximately 49% of requested funding.
During the 2022-23 fiscal year, the Student Activities Fee, which is supported by 1% of student tuition, had an abundance of rollover funds because “during the pandemic, clubs were not spending money from the Student Activities Fee fund,” A-Board Chairs Rashail Wasim ’25 and Sara Motoyama ’24 said in an Nov. 6 email to the Justice. “The Fiscal Year 2023 budget for SSIS was determined by A-Board during the Spring 2022 Marathon, when the last of the pandemic surplus was exhausted.” SSIS faced the steepest budget cuts, receiving 36% of their original request for the 2023-24 fiscal year and facing an overall 49% cut from their previous year’s budget.
The A-Board communicated their understanding of the challenges that come with the limited funding available. “We do understand that this is an adjustment for clubs, and we wish we were able to fund all clubs, including SSIS, at a higher amount. Unfortunately, budgetary realities limit us in that regard, and there are 200 or so clubs that we also have to ensure get their fair share of funds,” Wasim and Motoyama said.
The return to their pre-pandemic budget has made it more challenging for SSIS to maintain a fully stocked inventory. To continue offering their services, they have begun to purchase wholesale as well as pursue Community Emergency and Enhancement Fund grants and other supplementary funding opportunities such as fundraising initiatives. CEEF grants, though difficult to obtain, fund student-led initiatives with a long-term impact on the Brandeis community, such as the Branda App and the condom dispensers available in underclassmen dorms. “This ensures our commitment to serving the community's needs while prioritizing core offerings over less critical expenses,” SSIS explained, “That being said, we do want to underscore the necessity for adequate funding in the future so we can continue to serve the Brandeis community.”
Over the past five years, SSIS has expanded its offerings to adapt to feedback from the student body. Their services and products have also grown more popular due to their visibility and affordability initiatives. “SSIS has experienced a notable uptick in the utilization of our services, primarily attributed to the increased accessibility of our sliding scale pricing model, which now begins at $0, ensuring financial inclusivity for students ... Additionally, SSIS has enhanced its visibility through networking and collaboration with other clubs,” they said.
SSIS emphasizes that regardless of its budget, they will remain committed to being accessible for Brandeis. “We look forward to the upcoming year, hoping for a more equitable allocation that will enable us to meet the evolving needs of our community,” they said. “We hope that students will continue to utilize our services, and we appreciate the support that we have received from the community thus far.”