When Student Finance Board (SFB) Chairperson Craig Gross decided to completely alter the way SFB allocates Student Activities Fund money to student organizations, cutting each organization’s base budget substantially, many of these organizations and their treasurers grew weary.
The changes meant that money typically guaranteed to student organizations no longer existed, and would force them to request funding for most of their programming and extra activities at SFB’s weekly meetings.
They also assumed it would be more difficult than ever – amidst the requests of other student organizations – to get their requests granted and access the money that they had usually been handed as part of a lump sum at the beginning of the school year.
Now, however, while many organizations still see drawbacks in the new system, they are beginning to see some advantages in it as well. Could the changes be worth it?
“I guess it’s sort of a nuisance to go back each time (to request money), but if the purpose is to save money that’s being wasted then I guess it’s okay,” Susan Becker, junior international studies major and president of the Korean American Student Organization, said.
Gross said the system is aimed at saving money because SFB should no longer discover in its year-end evaluations that thousands of dollars that were appropriated in budgets went unused – as would happen with the old system.
“A lot of organizations were worried they wouldn’t get money,” Gross said, “but the whole reason (for the new system) is so more money is available from week to week.”
Becker noted, though, that this system will only be successful if SFB is ready to accept the programming requests that are made.
Gross said the board should be ready. Although each meeting agenda will likely be longer than in the past, he said the deliberations regarding each request should not take as long, as the board will only question how much money should be allocated for each request – not the validity of each request.
Black Student Union (BSU) President Paul Harris is not so sure of that, though. “The question we have to address is, on what basis will they be making their judgments – that is the key question,” he said.
“Are these representatives competent to judge the value of a program from their positions? I would argue on this question that they are not, and no matter how well our organization argues for programming, they need to be within our organization, a member, to understand the value of such a program.”
Harris said that in determining the value of a program, SFB seems to focus on getting the most out of every dollar. “Fundraise where you can fundraise, charge students where applicable and most importantly, when working with vendors, always shop around,” he said.
Harris said although BSU has always done well with approaching programming in this fashion, it makes him uneasy to see programming judged only along these lines. “That was my fear – that this would turn into a rat race, and then this governing body would resort to using a framework to make decisions that may in the long run be detrimental to campus programming,” he said.
Gross, however, insists that during the board meetings the value of programming will not be discussed – only what amount of money should be allocated for it.
“We’re not going to be asking ‘Do we like this program?'” Gross said. “We’ll make sure we get any requests to that point (that validity is already certain and money is all that needs to be settled).”
A lot more work must be done behind the scenes in order for this to occur, though. And while Gross said SFB is “putting in more time and effort and not looking to make the treasurers’ lives miserable,” he also said there will be a lot more responsibility placed on the treasurers.
“They will really have to be on top of things,” Gross said.
Jenn Kaplan, sophomore mathematics and secondary education major and treasurer of P.E.A.N.U.T.S., is beginning to realize this.
“As a treasurer, SFB definitely made things more difficult,” she said. “Whenever we plan a trip we now have to start discussing it months in advance so we can go talk to SFB and see if they will fund us where previously it was built in and we already knew that we could afford to denote such and such money to the activity.”
Jocelyn Charlon, junior nursing major and president of Union Latina (UL), who was the organization’s treasurer last year and part of the preceding year, sees the added responsibility as a benefit, though.
“I think the new system of having to ask for money forces organizations to be more organized and responsible with the money that is allotted to them,” she said.
Charlon is also happy with the new system because of its inclusion of the Multicultural Programs Line, whose funds, she said, “go specifically toward the kind of programming that UL often holds.
“For those reasons I like the way SFB is now being run,” she said.
UL still faces many economic challenges, though, Charlon said. “Since there are less funds available to us, UL, as well as other organizations, has been forced to look for other avenues in the form of income,” she said.
UL has fortunately been successful in finding these sources of income, as it was granted $2,500 from Public Service Electric and Gas Company to go toward its “Explosion Latina” event last year.
“Hopefully we will receive that money again this year,” Charlon said.
Kaplan said her organization has also been forced to find more funding for its programming.
“We need to develop numerous fund-raiser ideas in order to reduce prices for everyone to be able to afford a trip,” she said.
Charlon found a benefit that can result from different organizations having economic problems, though – in the form of co-sponsorship. “(It) can be a very positive thing,” she said. “It creates more unity within the campus community and more networking opportunities.”