Half of the student organizations who submitted budgets for the upcoming academic year asked the Student Association’s finance committee to fund items like food — requests the SA typically doesn’t grant.
Members of the finance committee said a lack of communication between senators and student organizations was the major reason behind many of the funding vetoes for student groups this year, including the 20 percent of organizations whose entire budgets were denied. SA senators said groups were also denied funding for requests like T-shirts or if the organizations’ budgets didn’t meet necessary criteria.
The SA finance committee denied 56 student organizations funding for the upcoming academic year, according to documents obtained by The Hatchet. The finance committee was asked by 141 organizations for money to fund food for events or other programming. About 80 student organizations saw a decrease in funding from the year before.
The weeks-long debate about student organization funding marked one of the most highly contested budget proposals in recent years that included a veto by then-SA president Nick Gumas.
Nancy Mannebach, the current chair of the finance committee, said budgets were denied if they had “little to no description at all,” or if those organizations didn’t meet with members of the finance committee to further explain their incomplete budgets.
She said some organizations that received funding had met with the committee, months before budgets were due, to talk about how to draft their budgets and why they would need funding for certain items.
“That’s why you come to office hours. You can tell the chairs and the finance committee things like that, which lets us understand where you’re coming from,” she said. “If it’s not written on the paper, there’s no leeway we can give.”
She said that while the finance committee usually does not fund food, student organizations that explained in person why they needed money for food costs were more likely to get money for those items.
Multicultural organizations, like the Balkan-American Student Association and Global China Connection, received money for food because they were for events central to the groups’ functions.
Many of the denied budgets included incomplete descriptions of items needed in the space provided to explain why they needed money from the SA, ranging from requests to cover the costs of poster boards, plates and napkins. Other organizations, like the Gilman Alumni Association, used their entire budget to request food for events. That budget was denied.
Derek Lee, the outgoing president of the Philosophy Club, said having a denied budget is “frustrating” because the group has attempted to expand its programming over the past few years. He said he wasn’t able to appeal his budget because he had issues using OrgSync, the new online forum groups used this year to submit their budgets.
“We needed the funding to get started. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening,” he said.
Only five student organizations — the Student Music Coalition, GW’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the MotherFunkers, Friends of ROTC and Capitol Food Recovery — received the exact dollar amount they requested when they submitted their budgets this semester. Those student organizations all asked the committee for less than $1,200, according to documents obtained by The Hatchet.
Student organizations go through trainings during the year with the finance committee and the Center for Student Engagement to learn how to fill out their budgets, and Center for Student Engagement advisers submitted budgets for the student organizations they represented.
GW’s chapter of the National Art Education Association asked for $7,550 to pay for programming expenses, the largest budget that was denied. But the group’s request did not give descriptions about why they needed that amount, which included more than $2,250 for food and beverages and $300 for T-shirts, according to their budget.
Amanda Hofstetter, vice president of GW’s chapter of the National Art Education Association, said it was a “little stinging jab” when their organization’s budget was not approved.
“I have to say, it’s been really hard transitioning from the Corcoran College of Art and Design to GW. It’s not about the money. It’s about the support, and we didn’t get any,” Hofstetter said.
Ben Pryde, who was chair of the finance committee when the budget was created, said in an interview in March that new student organizations usually don’t receive funding their first year because the budgets they submit are not detailed enough.
“Older organizations kind of have an institutional knowledge. But with the newer organizations, there’s more of a learning curve,” he said. “The reason they don’t write a detailed budget is because they’re still coming with up with things, so that’s why we prefer to co-sponsor them on something once they have a solid idea of what the event is going to look like.”
The finance committee, which has $1.2 million to give out to organizations for the next academic year, takes three tiers of criteria into consideration when they decide how much money they’re going to give to a student organization, including how much the organizations fundraise.
Organizations will still be able to apply for co-sponsorships for major events throughout next year. The finance committee has set aside more than $185,000 for those student groups.
Danielle Noel, the outgoing president of Lean In at GW, said she was “confused” when she found out her group’s budget was denied, but said the group did not appeal the rejection of the budget.
“The reason that they gave was that we didn’t bring prestige to the University,” she said. “I didn’t understand what that meant.”
The SA voted to change the requirement of prestige for next year’s allocations process in March. Instead, the committee will look to see if an item for which a group is requesting money is necessary in holding its events.
GW’s chapter of Students Against Sexual Assault asked for $1,210 in funding and received $360. The finance committee allocated SASA $10 to buy purple nail polish for their Purple Pinkie Campaign, which shows “solidarity with survivors of domestic violence,” according to their budget, but did not fund their spring training session, which would have cost $500 to fund fully.
Kheri Freeman, president of the Black Student Union, said she thinks there’s a “pattern” of multicultural student organizations that have received less money than what they asked for.
BSU received about 64 percent of the funds they requested, a drop Freeman said will impact the effectiveness of its programming for the next year. The group was denied funds for their Best of Both Worlds event, Career Week, barbecues and a holiday party, which were all listed with the description of “miscellaneous supplies.”
“We have some pretty large-scale community events throughout the year which we rely on our budget for, so I feel like we will not be able to be as effective with those events. We won’t be able to do as much community outreach as we have,” Freeman said.
She added that BSU is going to talk to the SA about increasing their budget, but said changes to the allocation process need to be more extensive than just to her group.
“I just think that there needs to be something else done, another way to look at budgets, to make them more equally distributed: I think just more balancing and realizing, ‘Would it be more beneficial for the community overall?’” Freeman said.
-Aishvarya Kavi contributed reporting.