When the bulk allocation process was implemented last fall, it was done with the goal of giving clubs more flexibility and control over their budgets and programming. Instead of having to present in front of the Student Activities Commission to receive funding for individual events, groups could now plan their programming for the semester ahead of time and receive a lump sum of money. How they use this lump sum is entirely up to them, giving groups new flexibility to budget and allocate on their own. The benefit of this process is two-fold. On one level, student groups have direct control over their budgets. On the other hand, SAC can now focus its time on aiding student groups directly with their programming by addressing concerns of university policy that may arise with individual events.
Recently, much controversy has arisen surrounding the creation of the funding guidelines for the 2011-2012 academic year. The funding guidelines is a document, as mandated by the SAC Constitution, that governs the bulk allocation process — the amount of funding clubs get for various types of events, how events can be added or subtracted, definitions of certain kinds of events, et cetera. Any group can request that the funding guidelines be suspended when considering their programming arc, allowing SAC to consider certain special cases that are not addressed in the funding guidelines.
For the next academic year, SAC has revised this year’s funding guidelines and approved changes. We are in the process of conducting information sessions to inform group leaders of the changes so they are prepared to fill out their programming arcs. When the guidelines were revised, commissioners were given an opportunity to give input and, in doing so, communicate the concerns of the groups they represent. The resulting document is a strong one that most, if not all, commissioners stand behind.
SAC admits, however, that much of the dissatisfaction with the process of revising the funding guidelines is warranted. We began consideration of the funding guidelines too late, and thus ran out of time to formally obtain student input. Because of the time constraint, SAC was forced to make a consideration of whether to approve the funding guidelines or wait for direct student input. The consequence of waiting was a serious one, making it difficult for groups to reserve the space they need. The Office of Campus Activities and Facilities’ opening date is March 1, so waiting any longer past the current timetable would mean many groups would lose out on space they reserve on a yearly basis. As a result, SAC chose to approve the funding guidelines as revised.
The commission was in no way unanimous on supporting funding guideline approval without direct student input. As a result, debate was re-opened on the funding guidelines at our meeting on Tuesday. Many commissioners expressed their dissatisfaction with the process and their frustration with the time constraints that SAC was working under. Even more so, many commissioners agreed that while SAC should defend the bulk allocation process and the funding guidelines, we recognize and take responsibility for the mistakes that we made in this year’s process. As a result, a formal amendment to the SAC Constitution will be considered at next Monday’s meeting. The amendment will clarify language about the funding guidelines and allow them to be amended in the future. SAC intends to hold a town hall following approval of programming arcs for this semester to solicit direct student input.
SAC understands that many groups may not be satisfied with this process, but we hope they understand it is an important step in acquiring student input. An amendment would allow changes to the funding guidelines next fall for the spring allocation, and would allow much more flexibility to be receptive to student concerns. I know I will be supporting the amendment and I expect many other commissioners to do the same.
SAC commissioners are all hardworking, committed individuals who put the success of the groups they represent first. Many commissioners, including me, were disheartened by the process and remain disappointed with the limited schedule. However, changes made Thursday night will hopefully alleviate most concerns.
SAC is often put in the difficult position of considering the needs of student groups while still maintaining university policy. We understand the desire for student groups to have a say, and assure groups they will in the future. Those wishing for direct transparency now are always welcome at SAC’s Monday evening meetings, which are public, and they can review the minutes posted online. SAC appreciates the concerns of student groups and hopes that a continued discourse between commissioners and their groups will continue to foster and improve student activities programming on campus.
Jack Appelbaum is a freshman in the College and a SAC Commissioner.
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