By Madiha Malik
On October 1, 2014, the Student Bar Association (SBA) announced its approved budget allocations for the Fall 2014 semester to student organizations at the Law School. The SBA Budget Committee reviewed 39 student organization budget requests, totaling $73,437.85 in amounts requested, though only $47,728.32 was available to be allocated.
“We allocated as much as possible for events that were properly planned, properly quoted, and properly submitted,” said SBA Chief Financial Officer Joseph Brown.
Brown explained that the Budget Committee takes several factors into consideration when determining how much funding to allocate to each event that a student organization proposes to host. “It is important to the committee that we provide resources to events that are open and available to as much of the student population as possible and that attract the broader population,” said Brown.
While the Budget Committee looks to an event’s appeal to the broader student body and expected attendance, it also considers the forethought the organization has put in to planning the event. This includes whether the budgets reflect precise pricing rather than quotes and estimates and whether there is a named person for a proposed panel or presentation.
“Certain treasurers do a better job with communicating with the committee what they are planning to propose,” Brown explained. The Budget Committee, according to Brown, made itself available early in the year for advice and to discuss events that organizations were planning. “Many organizations that have been dissatisfied with this process have failed to take advantage of that resource,” said Brown.
Brown urges organizations that have been denied funding to brainstorm ways to open their events up to the larger community and to make their events related to the legal field. Many of the budget deductions were made based on the Budget Committee’s policy to provide funding for one food-based event. While Brown understands that food creates interest from students, his concern is that students should be drawn to the event itself based on the topic, the panel of practitioners and professionals, and learning about the organization.
“We encourage leadership of organizations to think creatively and to think outside the box because too often, we have so many events that are similar and what the committee is impressed by is good and detailed planning and innovation and creativity as they approach this process,” said Brown.
It was seemingly for this reason that the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) was denied funding for its outlining workshop. The group requested funding for lunch and was denied because “the school already puts one on,” as detailed in the SBA’s comments on the group’s budget allocation spreadsheet. BLSA member Aigné Goldsby understands the Budget Committee’s interest in avoiding funding similar events and encouraging collaboration, but she believes that students benefit in a unique way from a BLSA sponsored event that they would not with another group hosting the event on campus.
“The point of us doing an outlining workshop, specifically as an affinity group, is that there are people on campus who are in different circumstances from others. Sometimes talking to someone and being in the same room as someone who looks like you and has similar experiences as you, makes a huge difference,” said Goldsby. Despite the lack of funding, Goldsby said the group still intends to host the event and that students will be paying out of pocket, highlighting another challenge for organizations facing underfunding.
Brown acknowledges the need to avoid student organizations having to pay out of pocket as it puts students in a difficult position. However, referencing the school-wide emails that are sent out advertising free food at events, Goldsby points out that there is a higher chance that students will not attend events where no food is provided. With so many groups on campus, organizations that are trying to gain recognition are not able to grab student’s attention without the added incentive of food, according to Goldsby.
“Student groups add to the life of the law school in so many ways, hosting events that allow us to explore topics and learn from the discourse,” said Assistant Dean of Students Karen DeMeola. Given the changes in entering class size, according to DeMeola, the SBA has had to make difficult decisions.
The Budget Committee is open to speak with students who have concerns with their allocated amounts or who would like to be involved in the process, according to Brown. For groups who are dissatisfied with their funding, the Budget Committee will accept supplemental budget requests to reconsider funding for specific events.