Launching the First University PB in the US

PBP is thrilled to be a lead partner for a new pilot PB process at Brooklyn College, part of the City University of New York. The Brooklyn College Student Government is setting aside 10% of its budget – at least $20,000 – for students to allocate this spring through participatory budgeting. This will be the first college or university in North America where all students will be invited to develop and vote on budget proposals.
The process kicks off with two town hall meetings at the start of March, and students will decide which projects get funded at an April vote. For more information, see the press release below. As universities across North America are threatened by funding cuts, we hope to model a new way for students to take control of their education and make their own budget decisions.

BC Student Government Press Release
February 14th, 2012
Brooklyn, NY

Today the Brooklyn College Student Governments of CLAS, SGS and GSO revealed an exciting new budgeting plan.
10% of their budgets are to be voted upon directly by students.

Through the new initiative, called Participatory Budgeting, students will come together in two town hall meetings (March 6th and March 7th) to discuss student needs and priorities. They will then propose specific projects to address these needs. Student volunteers will work with representatives from the administration, student government, and faculty, to develop these proposals into functional projects and make sure each proposal is financially, technically, and legally feasible. These proposals will then be placed on a ballot and students will vote on which ones to fund in April (around the same time as the Student Government election).
Traditionally, these funds are utilized by student clubs. While it is important to support clubs, as well as their events, and initiatives, student government feels that students who are either not in clubs or have needs that clubs cannot address ought to have a chance to be heard. Every student should, and now will, have the power to submit their ideas for projects and to improve their experience at Brooklyn College. Additionally, using this money in such a manner enables the student body as a whole to benefit from the funds; after all, the students themselves provide these funds. In order to ensure that this is the case, we are designating the funds to be used for proposals that are “infrastructural” in nature; by this we mean ideas that will improve the experience of the Brooklyn College student body at large and not just specific students or specific groups of students.
Participatory budgeting originated in Brazil and has proven successful in thousands of cities around the world in the past several years. Recently, a city ward in Chicago began allocating discretionary capital funds through participatory budgeting and NYC is only the 2nd U.S. city to ever attempt it. Brooklyn College will be the 1st College or University to attempt this in the U.S. We are working with a member of the team that helped implement the concept in Chicago; his organization The Participatory Budgeting Project (www.participatorybudgeting.org) is also working with four NYC Council-members who are currently doing participatory budgeting in their districts.
We hope the project will increase transparency, make government more efficient, and get students more involved. Democracy is in the making, will you be a part of it?
For more information, email: classpeaker@gmail.com

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