Analysis of club funds in 2014 SGA budget

With an increased budget this year, the Student Government Association (SGA) has been able to improve funding for campus clubs and student organizations by either fulfilling all requests in full or, for larger clubs, providing more support than last year.

Four years ago, the SGA suffered a budget deficit of nearly $30,000, and treasurers since then have had to gradually compensate for it through decreased funding of clubs and SGA programs. However, due to a larger SGA budget this year, SGA Treasurer Osman Bah ’16 has been able to increase club funding during the final year of the deficit repair.

Funding has most notably increased for large clubs, including the Outing Club and the International Club (I-Club). For I-Club’s Mix-it-Up retreat in September, the SGA provided $1,000 in funding compared to last year’s $800, and also provided club members with more money this year to prepare food for the annual International Food Festival, held this year on Nov. 9.

Other clubs, such as the Asian Student Association (ASA), saw even greater funding increases: while the ASA received $600 for the 2013 fall semester, the club received a total of $3,000 for the fall semester this year. According to Bah, $1,100 went toward the Nov. 8 Awkwafina concert alone.

According to Bah, every club, with the exception of the Echo, received more money this year than last year, and most small clubs received full funding. For example, Hipnotik and Colby Improv, who only requested $96.15 and $50, respectively, both received the amounts in full.

“We wouldn’t have enough money to sponsor everyone 100 percent,” Bah said.

Bah records each club’s itemized funding requests on a spreadsheet, allowing him to keep track of which expenses SGA was able or unable to cover. Since the start of his term as treasurer, he has tried to make the breakdown more specific than that of previous years’ spreadsheets.

“The main thing we cut funding on is food,” Bah said, referring to requests for food at smaller events and even for snacks at club meetings. “We can’t afford to be doing that. The food has to be absolutely essential.…Sometimes it’s just ridiculous for people to be asking $400 for food when food isn’t event the main part of the event.”

Bah and a committee of about 10 other students meet weekly to go over funding requests and determine what costs can be covered by SGA. The committee will sometimes consult Campus Life for assistance with “outrageous” requests, Bah said.

“I think that as long as students are within reason asking for something, they get what they ask for,” Bah said. “Most of the clubs received what they asked for, or more than they received last year.”

To maintain a balance between approximately 100 clubs on campus, Bah and his committee look at funding records from previous years, account for inflation and changes in the SGA budget, and factor in practical considerations, including the spacing of events over each semester. Since more clubs host events during the spring semester, SGA allocates 40 percent the budget to fall and 60 percent to spring.

Still, there are other considerations that vary year to year. “Some clubs are more active some years than others…you have to have a balance,” Bah said. “There are a lot of expenses that students don’t think of, [like] things that SGA co-sponsors.”

Certain expenses, such as hotel costs and registration fees, are “standard” for SGA to cover, Bah said, given that the SGA does not expect a student to pay for lodging at a school-sponsored event. However, transportation, second to food, is another area in which SGA tends to cut funding. “If you care about something, it shouldn’t be a big deal to pay a bit for transit,” Bah said. The one exception is if the transportation cost is the only expense for a given a club event, for example, a Model United Nations (MUN) conference, which often takes place near Boston.

To ensure adequate funding, clubs requiring special equipment or supplies should plan extra carefully for each year. For example, “We can’t afford to be sponsoring costumes for every single dance team,” Bah said. “We can fund maybe three or four, but they have to plan. Our policy is that if they can reuse a costume, we’ll fund it.” This way, each dance team will “build a stock” of clothing they can re-wear or repurpose for multiple performances, he added.

Most importantly, Bah and the committee consider the impact of each club event on the campus as a whole. “We want to sponsor events that reach a broader community than just a couple clubs… This is everyone’s money, everyone’s tuition,” Bah said.

One problem for Bah and the finance committee is that SGA is unable to fund certain club sports due to College policy. If a sport has both a varsity team and a club team, SGA cannot fund the club team, the policy stipulates. Bah has considered a modification: “Would we be able to partially support [the teams] without increasing liability?”

Bah’s greatest challenge as treasurer is that some club leaders purposely request more money than necessary. “It makes our life really difficult,” he said on behalf of his finance committee. “People have this notion that you have to ask for way more than you need for events because SGA is not going to give you enough. Then people ask for outrageous amounts and we have to cut it.”

He also faces a common misconception: “Some people think that there’s less funding [this year] because they didn’t get [all of] what they asked for. But it’s better than what they got last year in reality,” Bah said.

Bah always encourages students—club leaders, club members or otherwise—to come to the SGA office with questions. His office hours are Tuesday 3 to 5 p.m. and Wednesday 2 to 4 p.m.

To club leaders in particular, “If you feel the amount [of money] given to you is not enough for what you want to do…come talk to us!” Bah said. “We want these events to take place, but, at the same time, we have to stay within limits.”

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