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Under pressure from clubs, SAC adopts changes
The Student Activities Commission voted Monday on a package of resolutions and changes to its constitution, several of which came in response to widespread criticism of new funding guidelines.
Commissioners also adopted a bylaw creating an appeals process for groups whose programming arcs, a schedule of the next year’s events, or events themselves are rejected by the commission.
“This action is a symbolic gesture to student groups that we are reforming SAC operations to better serve their needs,” Commissioner Dalvin Butler (COL ’13) wrote in an email.
Clubs complained that the commission could not suspend funding guidelines. New language adopted by the commission now requires a two-thirds majority to amend funding procedures during the semester. In the past two weeks, more than 20 SAC-funded clubs signed a pair of open letters to the commission.
The letters protest a lack of club input in the guidelines. One major point of contention is the rule prohibiting clubs from holding events not accounted for in the approved programming arc. Clubs had to submit their programming arcs to SAC by Mar. 2.
“We ask SAC not to assume what clubs need and want,” a letter released on Feb. 28 read. “In order to make the Funding Guidelines more reflective of club programming, the process of determining club funding must be a two way process. Clubs must be consulted.”
In response to the letters, SAC scheduled a Mar. 29 town hall to discuss new funding guidelines. According to Commission Vice-Chair Ruiyong Chen (SFS ‘13), the town hall will help address the concerns raised by student groups.
“The open letters have demonstrated that student groups want to have a formal opportunity to voice their concerns,” Chen wrote in an email. “We hope that the town hall will provide such a venue to do so.”
After finalizing amendments to the SAC constitution, commissioners addressed the potential funding shortfall in the GUSA budget, which will not be finalized until Mar. 23 at the earliest.
The GUSA Budget Summit met on Feb. 27 to allocate the Student Activity Fee for the 2011-2012 school year. Every year, the Finance and Appropriations Committee creates a budget based funding requested at the summit by SAC and other advisory boards. GUSA bylaws mandate two week-long appeal periods before the FinApp, and then GUSA, can approve the budget.
Commissioners debated whether to use SAC’s reserve money to cover a potential shortfall in the event GUSA’s budget reduces SAC funding. However, delaying the release of club budgets could make it more difficult for SAC clubs to book space for next semester’s events.
Nonetheless, some commissioners, including Chen and Butler, expressed concerns that committing SAC’s reserves would cripple its budget for the coming year in the event that GUSA funding was unexpectedly low. According to Butler, if GUSA diminishes the FinApp committee’s appropriations to SAC, the prolonged budget process could exhaust SAC’s reserve funds before the budget is finalized.
“SAC’s reserves account should not act as our operational budget nor contingency budget to fund student organizations,” he wrote.
The commission unanimously voted to commit to using its reserves based on the budget passed by FinApp. According to GUSA liaison Tyler Sax (COL ’13), the committee expects to vote on GUSA’s draft budget on Mar. 15.
“This is a risk not just for SAC but also for our groups … since that would diminish the amount of funding remaining for our student groups for the Spring 2012 semester,” Chen wrote.