By Madiha Malik
Amidst criticism regarding student organization budget allocations, on Tuesday November 18th, the SBA unanimously voted to approve further exploration of increasing the student activity fee, which students pay each semester to the SBA for allocate to student organizations. The current student activity fee is $82 per semester and the SBA is hoping to increase the fee by $8 to $90. SBA President Jim Anderson stated inflation and the increased enrollment on campus as reasons for the need for an increased fee. According to a Facebook post on behalf of the SBA Budget Committee, the proposed $8 increase will make an additional $4,000 available for student organizations.
The budget allocation process has been recently criticized for lack of transparency. In response to this criticism, the SBA Budget Committee urges student leaders who have any issues with their budgets to be proactive and communicate their issues to Budget Committee members. “It’s difficult to address concerns if we’re not aware of them,” said SBA Chief Financial Officer Joseph Brown.
Budget Committee member Laura Ann Keller reminds organization leaders that students who are not satisfied with their budget allocations should attend the budget allocation meeting and make their concerns known. At the initial meeting when the Budget Committee decides allocation amounts to organizations, meeting minutes are taken and votes are recorded. All of this information is available to students, according to Keller, but students do not take advantage of these resources. “At least some portion of the complaints that we’ve gotten are from people who didn’t make an effort to address this upfront at all,” said Anderson. The budget allocation meeting, according to Anderson, was open to all students, regardless of their position or affiliation with any organization.
Members of the Budget Committee also encourage student groups to seek out supplemental budget allocations. After initial allocations, $5,215.17 was available to be allocated for supplemental requests. The Budget Committee understands that not all events can be planned three months in advance, when student organization budgets are due. “We denied a lot of events because they were not planned out at all and then we gave them the money when they came back with a supplemental budget,” said Keller.
Anderson cited the Energy and Environmental Law Society as one such organization that received more interest than expected from their career panel. The group submitted a supplement budget request and was approved to have the budget increased for that event. Still, according to Brown, there have not been enough supplemental budget requests made.”We want to encourage club leadership to communicate with us throughout the semester as new needs and new opportunities arise,” said Brown.
Looking to the Spring semester, the Budget Committee advises student organizations to plan ahead for their events and provide details on the budget submissions. Additionally, Brown is planning on holding a meeting for organization leaders to explain the budgeting process and address questions in attempt to provide more transparency.