Student groups seek signatures for this year’s round of block funding petitions
Emergency Support Team, Campus Y, Uncle Joe’s Peer Counseling and Habitat for Humanity have all circulated petitions for block funding from SU for the 2020-2021 academic year.
If a student group receives signatures from 1,065 students, 15% of the student body, by Feb. 15 at 12 a.m., its petition will be on the ballot in the spring SU election. Then, if two-thirds of the student body votes in favor of the petition, the student group will be guaranteed funding for the entire year.
Other student groups obtain their funding by submitting a budget to SU, which could possibly be cut at the discretion of Treasury. The budgets of groups that receive block funding cannot be cut.
This year, EST is requesting $49,944.64, Campus Y is requesting $40,370.40, Uncle Joe’s is requesting $9,505.00 and Habitat for Humanity is requesting $7,014.00.
“The biggest chunk of our funding goes to paying for the phone system,” Treasurer of Uncle Joe’s Madeline Alburtus said. “We have a phone system that allows everyone who is currently on duty to be notified at the same time, whereas we used to use a pager system that was a little less reliable…We also have areas in our budget for subsidizing different aspects of the training process.”
At the time of publication, Uncle Joe’s had about half of the signatures necessary to be placed on the ballot. Alburtus encourages students to support Uncle Joe’s by signing its position due to the important role that the service plays in the lives of many members of the student body.
“Joe’s for several decades on this campus has provided free confidential peer counseling available to any member of the undergraduate student body,” Alburtus said. “It’s definitely a service that is well utilized and is increasingly well utilized on this campus, so we want to be able to continue providing that next year and in years to come.”
Campus Y, which is requesting $40,370.40, cites its wide variety of programming and its connection with the greater St. Louis community as reasons for its block funding request.
“To go out into the St. Louis community, that requires transportation, and having these different programs, doing various things from science experiments with kids in hospitals to going to local shelters…We wouldn’t be able to do that and kind of give our support to the St. Louis community without the funding we get through SU from block funding,” Campus Y Student Finance Director senior Megan Schulman said.
The organization is currently “not as close as [they] would like to be” to meeting their goal, Schulman said, emphasizing that the process of collecting so many signatures in such a short period of time can be difficult for any student group.
“This is my second go-around with block funding, and there’s definitely room for improvement,” Schulman said. “It does sometimes make our lives really hard.”
After many student groups felt rushed by last year’s timeline, Student Life Vice President of Finance Ariel Ashie added an extra two and a half weeks to collect signatures by requiring student groups to submit their initial budgets earlier.
“Ariel [Ashie] had the budget submitted at an earlier timeline, which allowed us more time to receive signatures, which was really helpful,” Alburtus said. “I think having that full two weeks has been helping us navigate the signature-collecting process.”
If a student group which provides important services for the student body does not receive enough signatures, there are other avenues that they can pursue. SU Treasury’s Activities Committee Chair junior Alexa Jochims promises that SU will find a way to ensure that these groups are funded.
“We… make sure to put enough money in our Category 1 allocation boards so that if they do go through that Budget Committee process, we have enough money to provide [for them]…,” Jochims said. “We always have an emergency backup plan.”
However, Jochims readily admits that having to find signatures can be stressful in itself.
In order to improve the block funding system and reduce stress, Ashie, Jochims and other SU members plan to overhaul SU’s funding policies by the end of the year and create an improved system for financing student groups.
The exact details of this new funding system are still in the works, but Ashie emphasizes groups which provide vital services to the University community will be given a high priority.
“We do recognize that a lot of these groups provide a service on our campus that’s very vital and having to have them go through this process, I know it’s very strenuous,” Ashie said. “So we’re making sure that as we reevaluate the entire [funding] structure, that we are finding a new place for them.”