Student groups see dramatic increase in budgets after appeals

Media Credit: Yonah Bromberg Gaber | Hatchet Designer

The Student Association appeals committee sharply increased the amount of funding it awarded to 50 student organizations for the upcoming academic year.

Members of the committee allocated slightly less than $65,000 during the appeals process, committee chair Sen. Brandon Bernier, SEAS-G, said. The SA added more than $30,000 to the pool set aside for student groups who were unhappy with their initial budget this year.

The five-member committee spent 16 hours in meetings over the weekend meeting with student organizations that felt they deserved more funding than the finance committee originally offered them in the budget released last week.

“Over the two-day span, I learned a ton about the needs of our student orgs, but was also able to better explain to them the rationale behind shifting more emphasis to co-sponsorships,” Bernier said in an email. “Our hope is that expanding the co-sponsorship fund will necessitate better and more frequent communication between the finance committee and our student orgs.”

Student groups must submit a budget to the SA’s finance committee to receive funding. After receiving the initial allocation, members of the group can appeal for more funding, but must present to the appeals committee.

Bernier said 69 student groups scheduled appeals, but only 58 showed up to present at the hearing. More than 85 percent of those groups received more money from the appeals committee, averaging about $965 more per group, Bernier said.

About two dozen student groups did not return a request for comment or declined to comment.

In deciding whether or not to grant groups more money, Bernier said the appeals committee reconsidered the budgets that groups had already submitted to the finance committee as they gained more context from their presentations.

He said the committee “fully expected” many organizations to submit appeals this year because the SA restructured its bylaws and shifted resources away from up-front funding for organizations.

‘We were able to help orgs where they needed it most during appeals, but understanding that there will be such a large sum of money available throughout the year definitely seemed to calm any initial anxiety. Being able to sit down and have that discussion face to face with orgs was extremely important and productive,” Bernier said.

Jack Rametta, treasurer for the GW Jazz Orchestra, said his organization received $2,600 extra after appeals – more than four times the group’s initial allocation of $620. He said the additional funding will be used for equipment, musical charts and jazz jam sessions.

“I still have concerns for the arts at GW, but I now feel much better about the role that SA and SA finance can play to help mitigate the costs incurred on the music department by last year’s budget cuts,” he said.

A panel recommended setting aside more for appeals funding after a weeks-long battle to approve the budget last year.

Historically, student groups have not received much additional funding during the appeals process.

Before allocations, some student organizations complained the reorganized budget left them feeling uncertain about programming for the next academic year.

In a statement posted to Facebook Thursday afternoon, a group of multicultural student organizations said many groups in their community felt “insecure” about their finances for next year and had been “hit severely by the decisions made, forcing some to question whether or not their annual events can go on.”

“Student organizations are typically more comfortable and feel a greater sense of flexibility when they know their budget is adequate and guaranteed,” the statement said.

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