Student Organizations Committee and student leaders strive for better accountability, with mixed approaches
By Julie Oatfield /// Staff Writer
Perhaps with the exception of the Ninja Club, most clubs agree that transparency is important in maintaining good relations with the student body and the administration. This spring, the Student Organizations Committee (SOC) ] developed a detailed new budget allocations system to create greater financial accountability in the upcoming school year.
The SOC requires that any club seeking funds from the committee send in an itemized budget of each event and associated costs for the 2015-2016 school year. Organizations had to submit similar applications in previous years, with outlines of events, projected costs and a written explanation for the amount of funding requested. The new system, however, mandates more than simple outlines. Budgets detailing everything from the prices of markers, to film screening rights, to gas for sports tournaments appear to be a mixed blessing for students and SOC alike.
“Some clubs told me that by going through the application process they were able come up with a more realistic figure about how much money their club needs.Many of the groups that were apprehensive in the beginning began to see the benefit of the application once they began working on it,” Interim SOC Coordinator Piper Riley (’16) said.
Riley acknowledged that many clubs struggled with dedicating enough time to writing the budget proposals, and helped extend last week’s original deadline. Despite going through a sudden change in leadership the week of the deadline, SOC is sticking to the new model after former coordinator Melia Manter’s (’15) resignation.
Current leaders of student organizations, who are less optimistic of the new system’s benefits,have petitioned for a more flexible system. Samson Harman (’16), a leader of the Queer Resource Center and Apocalips, began reaching out to clubs after SOC’s announcement of the revised budget process. A petition was formed, declaring the extensive and time-consuming budget process unreasonable. Alongside the signatures, testimonies were gathered from at least 28 clubs elaborating on their need for financial flexibility and input from future members.
“Students deserve the agency to make decisions for themselves and SOC is in fact, discouraging ingenuity, coalitions, and student participation. Every student group knows flexibility is invaluable to operations,” Harman said. “Part of managing a club is being in touch with what the student body needs, or having collateral leadership and synchronizing on community-outreach around relevant issues that we have no way of foreseeing.”
Another club leader, Allie Collins (’17) of BuildOn, emphasized a potential lack of future club members’ voices.
“There are events we’ve done this year, like the barbecue or the dress swap, that have been really successful that we haven’t had in the past,” Collins said. “They [happened] because of ideas that new members had this year, and that we came up with as a group. People aren’t gonna enjoy a club if they just show up and we tell them what to do.”
The new budget process is still being implemented, with an appeals process available in the fall for students to address and adjust budget concerns.
Riley notes that this year’s system will “attempt to allocate [funds] more realistically so that money wouldn’t be leftover when another club could use it.” Regarding future budget allocations methods, she says “I am planning to rework the application process next year,to work on finding ways that the application process can fit the various types of clubs,” including holding open forums in the fall for input from student organization leaders.
“I think fostering transparency in our student government really means increasing community relationships, and trusting one another enough to listen and have them be a part of the conversation in the first place,” Harman said.