Student Activities Commission considers restructuring its process to fund student groups

February 19, 2015

The Student Activities Commission is considering restructuring its process of funding student organizations beginning next semester.

Under the proposed system, groups would apply to one of ten general tiers of funding ranging from one hundred to several thousands of dollars and receive their entire semester’s budget in a block disbursement, according to SAC chair Connor Maytnier (COL ‘16). “SAC would take into account the size of the group, their past levels of funding,” and an “events plan—a rough sketch of the semester—and determine which tier the group would fit in,” he said.

According to the proposal sent to all SAC club presidents and treasurers, “SAC would still hold separate ad hoc and travel funds.” There would also be a “new initiatives fund” available for clubs “looking to substantially increase from past semesters’ levels of programming and spending.”

The proposal replaces the current system of itemization in place since 2012, according to Associate Director of the Center of Student Engagement Amanda Carlton. “As part of its ongoing work to be responsive to group needs, SAC regularly revisits its funding guidelines, processes and structure,” she wrote in an email to the Voice. “It’s unclear what impact this would have on the current cuts that SAC faces in allocating to groups.”

Groups are currently required to create line-by-line budgets for all programming, one full semester in advance.  “The budget guide is very objective. We allocate for events and food based on estimated attendance numbers,” Maytnier said.

The idea arose from constraints groups have faced when changing plans. “It’s restrictive. Groups are trying to budget months in advance, and that can be very difficult for something that’s far down the road,” Maytnier added. “If the Event Authorization Form doesn’t get submitted, if you are not able to have that event, it’s very likely that there will be a financial penalty.”

According to Maytnier, feedback thus far has been mostly positive. For every response opposing the change, there were four responses in its favor. About three-quarters of respondents thought they received adequate funding, and there are no discernible opinion trends based on size or type of club.

For FY15, the SAC budget exceeds $320,000, funded mostly from the student activities fee and Student Affairs via tuition. This spring, SAC deemed $210,400 of requests reasonable, but could disburse $151,000. Consequently, requests are scaled to 71.8 percent.

Robert Shepherd (MSB ‘15), Chair of GUSA Finance and Appropriations, assured the Voice that the move is not an austerity measure. “The university’s budget climate does not affect SAC’s bottom line in any way,” he wrote. Pending the upcoming budget summit, “SAC has requested a significant increase in funding for FY16.”

Though a decision might be far away, a change must be determined this month if it were to affect next semester. SAC will hold a meeting open to the public on Monday, and Maytnier encourages groups to contact their commissioners. “We could move more money more freely,” he said. “This should be seen as being an elimination of bureaucracy.”

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