Spring student group budgets released amid rising demands

| Senior News Editor

Student Union released their student group budgets for the spring semester on Nov. 11, allocating 66.9% of requested funds.

In total, Category 1 student groups requested an unprecedented amount of $1,270,330.22. These groups are approved to request over $500 per allocation cycle.

The percentage of funds allocated decreased relative to the fall semester, in which 77.3% of requested funding was allocated. Last spring, 67.2% of requested funds were allocated to Category 1 groups. The amount given to the SU Budget Committee for both the fall and spring semesters was determined in SU’s general budget for the 2019-2020 school year, which was determined in February. Category 2 groups, which request between $150 and $500, were also allocated funds through the budget.

Sophomore Arjan Kalra, SU Budget Committee chair, characterized this year’s committee as one of the most strict committees he has seen.

“I think it’s just a direction that possibly we need to go,” Kalra said. “We weren’t properly set up through the Student Union general budget to address it.”

During the pre-allocation period, which began in late September, the committee received proposed budgets from each student group and interviewed them to gather information about each group’s priorities and goals and the significance of their ideal budget to their mission.

The allocation period ran through October and consisted of the committee holding six 10-hour meetings to reach consensus about funding for each organization.

With sizeable requests from student groups and a finite amount of money to allocate, Kalra said the committee’s strictness was necessary, though not ideal.

“Student groups are getting bigger and bigger and bigger and their requests are getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” Kalra said. “My best approach would be to make sure that you’re being fair to all student groups and you’re not just constricting a certain subset of student groups in any way.”

The rationale behind each group’s funding decision is based on a set of thresholds that the committee sets to limit the amount of funding they will provide for different categories. The most significant threshold across the board was the amount of funding provided for food.

“They were being very purposeful with where they were funding food and making sure specifically that it had a very big impact and large reach whenever they were funding it,” Kalra said. “[The threshold] looks different for every group because we evaluate every group differently.”

The Budget Committee also worked with the Student Environmental Council (SEC) to make student group events more sustainable through their budgetary processes. SEC will fund compostable versions of napkins, plates and cutlery instead of the Budget Committee funding them. If needed, additional funds will come from SU’s internal budget.

The committee is now entering the post-allocation period, in which student group leaders are invited to meet with the committee to learn about their funding rationales and provide feedback for the committee members. The first session was held Nov. 13, with the remaining sessions set to take place on Nov. 15 and Nov. 19.

Campus radio station KWUR ran into difficulties last semester when they received zero funding for their annual KWUR Week concert series due to an allocation error, but this semester, the group is more satisfied with their allocation.

“This coming semester is going to be much better because we did get funded at 80% for KWUR Week, so we do have some money to work with, which is a lot better than what happened last year when we weren’t able to have any funding for that,” KWUR treasurer sophomore Natalie Fikes said.

Although Fikes wished the organization could have received more funding for the group’s community-building events, she acknowledges that the group is in a better place than it was last semester.

“It’s just [about] deciding what we think is most important and allocating funds to that instead,” Fikes said.

Lunar New Year Festival (LNYF), a Category 1 student group, requested funding to put on their annual performance in the spring, which includes renting out Edison Theatre.

“Our budget is not as bad as I thought it would be,” LNYF treasurer senior Lucy Summer said. “We were very fortunate. Overall, we’re pretty satisfied.”

In a statement to Student Life, SU VP Finance junior Ariel Ashie emphasized the work that SU’s financial leadership team put in to satisfy the needs of student groups to the best of their ability.

“The budgeting process is by no means perfect and mistakes are certainly made…I would encourage student group leaders to attend post-allocation office hours or reach out [to] the financial leadership,” Ashie wrote. “We’re all here to listen and [we] need to hear feedback in order to effect change.”

Kalra said that the budget allocation process is constantly evolving and working to adapt to the needs of student groups given the committee’s resources.

“I’m very hopeful for the future because I know a lot of people are looking to better prioritize how we fund our student groups, how we support those student groups,” Kalra said. “So I’m looking forward to the next general budget session because that’s a very big conversation that needs to happen.”

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