Students aren’t psychics. But with new changes to the Student Association funding allocations policy, that is the role student organizations must play this year.
The SA is asking student organizations to set their budgets in the spring, justifying their actions by saying student groups will be able to get off the ground more quickly in the fall. In the past, student clubs have been able to plan their budgets for the year beginning in the fall semester.
Unless students gain some otherworldly foresight, scheduling budgets months in advance will be a struggle for many student organizations. Instead of developing a spring-only budget deadline, the SA should establish a more flexible policy that would give organizations the chance to submit budget proposals in either the spring or fall, depending on when an organization can best estimate its needs for the year.
Alex Mizenko, the SA finance committee chair, defended the decision, saying that keeping allocation requests in the fall “is just not feasible,” since the Center for Student Engagement moved the organization registration period to the spring.
But there’s a major flaw with this new time frame: Many organizations simply don’t know what their budget for the next year will be in the spring. Most students are busy with school and end-of-the-year activities, and the SA is essentially asking student groups to base their budgets off guesswork.
For example, GW’s Cycling Club’s travel costs vary from year to year depending on how many members sign up for a given race. As it is, they have difficulty planning their budget from race to race. Imagine if they had to plan more than a whole semester in advance.
It’s not fair for a club or organization like the cycling team to have to set a budget so far in advance. Before the summer, many clubs simply don’t know what their schedules will look like for the fall. Students can’t possibly be expected to set an accurate budget when their plans for the fall are still in the works.
But that isn’t the only student organization this will affect.
Laura Wood, business manager of the student theater group Forbidden Planet Productions, said it will be almost impossible to submit a budget by the new deadline.
“If the allocation application is done before we know either season, our budget cannot accurately represent our needs for even one of the semesters,” she said.
A student organizations budget is a lot like its blue print for the year. But months before the fall semester, there is a lot of time for events and programming to be added to the list. If clubs are asked to create their budgets too far in advance, it could potentially limit the number of events and projects they are able to have.
But the new allocation process also fails to take into account the transition organizations go through every year. Mizenko says most executive boards elect new members during the spring, which will allows these new members to set their own budgets. But all organizations don’t have the same election dates. Since many clubs elect their new leaders throughout the spring, the new executive board members might have a different vision for the organization than outgoing members do. And two different sets of goals might mean two very distinct budgets.
If the SA were to add flexibility to the policy, there would be fewer instances of student organizations having financial issues when they realize their estimates from the previous year were off the mark. There shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to allocations and the SA shouldn’t expect all student organizations to have a clear idea of the following year’s budget so far in advance.
Students can’t predict the future, and the SA shouldn’t expect them to.
Kellianne King is a junior majoring in history.
This article appeared in the October 11, 2012 issue of the Hatchet.