The Flipside’s $7,000 Joke

Posted by at 1:21AM

The Flipside's requested Segway could have many uses, including a quick trip down University Ave for some Pizza My Heart.

How much are you willing to pay for a good laugh? For The Stanford Flipside, seven grand is fair game.

In its latest issue, The Flipside announced that it has requested a Segway in its special fees budget for next year. The Segway appears as a $7,000 “Equipment Purchase” in The Flipside’s actual budget, viewable on the ASSU Elections website. The Flipside staff aren’t making any attempts at subtlety, either; the futuristic electric vehicle comprises just under half of the club’s $14,400 funding request.

The funny thing is, they’re only half-kidding. According to the club’s President, Jeremy Keeshin, “One of our goals with the Segway is to call attention to a lot of the line-items in other groups’ budgets that are easily overlooked. There are groups with $80,000 or $100,000 budgets that may include way more than $10,000 of unnecessary spending but are overlooked because of a large budget. We encourage you to look for the Segways in other people’s budgets.”

Keeshin has a point. KZSU, for instance, is requesting almost $30,000 for their salaries for their officers. The Stanford Daily continuously asks the student body to chip in for their printing costs, for which they last year received $89,500; The Daily claims that the money is meant to serve as a small subscription fee for campus-wide service. Meanwhile, Stanford students happen to be very generous when it comes to the budgets of student groups. They rejected just six special fees requests in 2010, and rejected none of the requests in 2009, in the trough of America’s lingering recession.

This does not mean The Flipside won’t run into some opposition. The ASSU Senate Appropriations Committee may not appreciate the joke, which means that the club will need 15% of the student body to approve their special fees request. (For general information on the special fees process, see the ASSU protocol and a more realistic version of their well-meaning flow chart.) For students, however, the joke might be worth the cash; each undergrad would fork out a mere $2.07 for The Flipside’s overall budget.

The prank could also succeed in pointing out some flaws in the special fees system. There is a big difference between budget items looking reasonable and being reasonable. How can one sincerely expect students to account for $4,000 worth of food over the course of a year within a reasonable margin of error? Student groups clearly need money for the events they put on; that I will not contest. However, setting aside money for a whole year without being able to predict all of the modifications that might happen along the way might not be the most efficient way to do it. In such cases of uncertainty, the natural tendency is to give one’s club a certain amount of breathing room in order to avoid being strapped for cash towards the fiscal year-end.

This reality is what The Flipside claims to address with its new budget request. According to Adam Adler, Managing Editor of The Flipside, “We want to point out the ridiculous nature of the special fees process in which groups with legitimate budgets are turned down by the Appropriations Committee and then have an incentive to artificially inflate their budgets using the special fees process. We also kind of want a Segway.”

Assuming their intentions are sincere, The Flipside’s staff could claim victory regardless of the outcome of their Segway endeavor. If they lose, they succeed in getting students to scrutinize at least some of the special fees budgets on this year’s ballot. If they win, they get the satisfaction of having snookered the entire student body into buying them a holiday present as ridiculous as the people who voted for it.


15 Responses to “The Flipside’s $7,000 Joke”

  1. Ryan says:

    This is comedic genius. I’d totally vote for it if they’d let me try it out. Hell, there should just be a segway club that affords people the opportunity to ride a segway. I’d totally join such a group lol.

    No, but seriously, thank you flipside for making me lol. I wish you luck on your endeavor.

  2. Edward says:


  3. Halsey says:

    So worth the $2.07. (and even as a freshman, I can see that the special fees process seems a bit ridiculous)

  4. Dave says:

    We should just get rid of special fees altogether and make student groups have bake sales if they want money.

  5. George says:

    I don’t see how this is relevant. KZSU actually needs to hire staff and operates on a relative dime. Given how much distribution the Daily gets, I’m not surprised either that their printing costs are 89k.

  6. George Malkin says:

    George, thanks for your comment. The reason I bring up those examples is not because I think they are inherently unfair, though some students find them unreasonable. Rather, I’m trying to draw attention to whether or not we students should be paying for those kinds of expenditures through special fees, or if they ought to be financed through another process with greater transparency. I hope that addresses your question.

  7. Ryan says:

    One only needs to see Airfare and food on a great many of groups’ special fees budgets in order to question the process.

  8. Adam says:

    Thanks George for writing this article, and thanks also to the Flipside for entering the discussion over special fees. Everyone who’s interested in this topic should read these two articles now:

    Special fees is horribly inefficient, and could be done much better. How might we get a critical mass of the population to actually care and do something about it? Any ideas?

  9. Argyris says:

    $30K is nothing considering the service that KZSU is providing for Stanford as well as the Palo Alto community. I recommend that you at least make the effort of listening to the radio station before dismissing it as a joke.

  10. Adam says:

    $30 k for KZSU mostly pays for a full-time operating engineer to make sure that the station is functioning and a whole bunch technical stuff the average student could not be bothered to think about.

    You are picking the wrong fight to argue that a functioning radio station does not need any people on salary. I encourage you to find any operating radio station with the global reach of KZSU that spends less than $30 k per year on staff to keep it up running.

    And students wonder why KZSU has no money to spend on throwing concerts or campus events like we used to. It’s because our resources are being siphoned off for things that any functional entity needs to pay for. (for example, ASSU decided last year that computers are not a necessary part of our budget. Who needs to use computers? Yeah, we should continue to operate on equipment from the 60s, etc.)

  11. Jack says:

    The $30,000 salary request by KZSU is negligible when considering the following examples:

    * KZSU’s transmitter location serves as the radio infrastructure for the entire Stanford Public Safety department – police & fire & emergencies. During the 1989 earthquake, our backup power systems kicked in instantaneously and for a moment, we were the only radio station operating in the entire Bay Area. When the next big earthquake hits and cell phones & Internet are down, we’ll be ready.

    * KZSU currently covers 5 Cardinal sports (football, baseball, M/W basketball, volleyball) and partially covers a few others (soccer, softball, men’s volleyball) – and streams all the games on the Internet for Cardinal fans, family, friends, and alumni to enjoy. This requires round-the-clock server monitoring and computing infrastructure.

    * KZSU is NOT simply another student club that operates only during the school year. We serve Stanford University year-round. KZSU runs 365 days a year and operates daily, even during Summer & Winter break.

    We had our budget slashed numerous times over the past decade by the vagaries of the ASSU special fees process. We are asking to restore some sanity to our budget, so that we can keep the technical & management team in place to support our radio infrastructure (Stanford’s infrastructure).

  12. David says:

    Yes, unlike any other student group, KZSU hires a full-time employee. Our Chief Engineer accepts a paycheck that is a fraction of what similar radio engineers make, and then volunteers an additional 15+ hours each week out of the goodness of his heart.

    Having worked at several other radio stations, I can promise you that the amount set aside for staff to keep a station running day and night is typically several hundred thousand dollars.

    Along those same lines, what the Stanford Daily is able to do with such a small budget is incredible. I read their newspaper every day and count myself lucky that their distribution is able to reach even the most remote of dormitories in West Campus.

    David Ayrton Lopez
    KZSU General Manager

  13. Ryan says:

    @KZSU people. It’s good to hear about how much work goes into the process. I think the Stanford Daily though should speak for themselves. They receive alumni donations, have a set infrastructure, and pay staff who don’t do nearly as much as it sounds like your engineer does. With that said, I encourage the Daily to publish a defense of their requests and an article revealing full transparency of their outside funding. No Ivy League University pays its staff. And with that said, the Harvard Crimson manages to run a surplus. It seems like the Daily needs to just pick things up a bit and get some better management.

    And even with all that said, I have less problems with special feeds for KZSU and the Daily, because these are groups that provide a service for everyone on campus. There might be a little waste hidden each budget, but that’s typical of any large organization and explainable. Wasteful budget line items for groups that provide a service limited to a select group of students…ain’t going to get off the line so easily.

    With that said, I have some lingering questions about the KZSU budget (and I thank you guys for bring awesome and explaining why all the money is actually used and how much hard work goes into trying to provide services for everyone):

    -What’s the $10,000 in travel fare for?
    -Who gets the labor fees from item 6090 “payroll computer checks and labor fees” for? (this is separate from the engineer budget line item)
    -I have not seen a quarterly program guide or printed publication about KZSU, which is frustrating because you guys were the only ones who gave free coverage of football games not picked up by a network and I feel like more people would listen to KZSU if they were aware of KZSU’s services. That being said, I don’t see KZSU in print so I am mystified by the $800 for “quarterly program guides”
    -I think the $2000 allocated to “travel for broadcasters to stanford sporting events” is questionable.

  14. David says:


    Our sports crews broadcast both the home and away games for 5 Stanford sports on-location (and just the home games of 3 other sports), which requires them to do a lot of traveling. This fall they went to UCLA, Notre Dame, Oregon, Arizona, Berkeley and Florida (yeah!) to cover football and this winter they have been busy traveling all over the Pacific coast to cover men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball. This spring, they will provide coverage of the baseball team as they travel all around the country. All this traveling can be quite expensive, even though we typically save lots of money by having broadcasters stay with the families of Stanford students and asking alums to broadcast events that are in their neck of the woods. Our budget for travel is actually quite meager–we will probably run through it halfway through the year and hope to scrape by with donations from sports fans. One of the coolest things about broadcasting live on location is that since we don’t do delays like television companies do, our broadcasters often call the plays first. :) And there are no annoying commercials.

    Because we hire an employee, we are subject to some degree of payroll taxes and filing fees in relation to the process of paying that employee. (this explains item 6090) We actually never touch the funds in this account — they are withdrawn automatically by the ASSU payroll system and have been this way for a while.

    About the program guide– we try to distribute the program guide as widely as we can–there’s usually a stack at the Axe and Palm, or in dorm lobbies, coffee shops, record stores, etc. Sometimes they go fast though. We do upload most of them online though, and you can find them here on our website:

    -David Ayrton Lopez

  15. Ryan says:

    You have my vote and I think everyone’s. KZSU is legit.


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