A committee scrutinizing the way student organizations are funded laid out their first round of recommendations last week, an examination that comes after last year’s allocation process resulted in a budget veto and weeks of contentious debate.
A new budget model for allocations could give 10 percent more funding to co-sponsorships, or student organization initiatives or events that are partly funded by the SA, bringing that total budget to roughly $340,000. The proposals were presented at a townhall meeting last week, and student organizations have been invited to speak out about changes to the process – adjustments that student leaders have lobbied for in the past.
Several members of the committee declined to comment for this story, referring to the finance committee chair for comment. The committee will present the proposed changes to the finance committee next Monday at the SA meeting, where all senators will vote on the new model.
Rayhann Mehrani, a member of the group, said during the townhall meeting that the goal of the proposal is to reduce the focus on spring allocations and designate more funding to student organizations after the allocations process and throughout the academic year. Generally a handful of student organizations receive little to no funding if they make mistakes in applying for funding, and major groups like College Democrats and the Organization of Latino American Students have seen their funding totals slashed in recent years after improperly filing paperwork.
“What we want is to see what your opinions and views are on the finance committee. We want to take it all into consideration on the record during this meeting and to decide on any by laws that will be created,” he said.
The SA Senate created the review committee last month, and tasked the nine members with finding troublesome spots in the financial laws of the SA, researching other institutions’ student government financial rules and reaching out to student organizations about the changes. The final recommendations will be implemented for fiscal year 2017.
Next year, the SA expects its budget, half of which is funded by student activity fees and then matched by the University, to increase by about 10 percent, bringing its total budget in fiscal year 2017 to $1.37 million.
The new recommendations also add more than $30,000 to the pool of money set aside for appeals, funds that groups can apply for if they are dissatisfied with their original allotment.
The committee also created a survey where members of student organizations’ executive boards could rate their experiences with the SA’s financial procedures and policies.
Former SA President Nick Gumas vetoed the budget in April, after the SA finance committee denied funding for 56 student organizations. About 80 student organizations saw a decrease in funding from the year before, and Gumas cited a lack of funding for student groups like Students Against Sexual Assault and the Progressive Student Union in his announcement of the veto.
The senate passed its current budget in an emergency session in May, overriding the veto.
Sen. Paden Gallagher, the chair of the finance committee, said in an email that he hopes the committee will suggest changes to make the allocation process more clear for student groups, because members have complained in the past about a murky and overly bureaucratic system.
“In general, what we heard was a lot about how the bylaws lack a certain level of clarity and how miscommunication makes those issues worse,” he said.
Administrators and student leaders pointed to the implementation of OrgSync, an online platform for student groups, as a way to improve and streamline the way students apply for funds.
The finance committee saw an increase in requests for and successfully funded co-sponsorships earlier this year. Members of the SA are assigned a group of student organizations and serve as those group’s point of contact for questions about how to apply for co-sponsorships and how allocations are doled out.
SA President Andie Dowd said that she would like to see the finance committee clarify exactly what it looks for in co-sponsorship and allocation requests so student organizations can be as detailed as possible – a goal former finance committee chair Nancy Mannebach shared before she resigned in October.
“Obviously the biggest change I want to see is how we meet student organizations’ needs. Organizations need clarity so they know what they’re getting themselves into,” she said.
James Levinson and Crystel Sylvester contributed reporting.