Petitions for SU block funding open

| Senior News Editor

In advance of Student Union’s general budget session, four student groups have chosen to apply for block funding: Habitat for Humanity, Campus Y, Uncle Joe’s Peer Counseling and Emergency Support Team.

Student groups typically submit budgets to SU, and then require Treasury’s approval before receiving funding. Groups can appeal for a certain amount of money depending on what category designation they hold. However, block funding provides an alternative method for student groups to petition for money. This way, the budgets are voted on by the entire Washington University student body.

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 2.03.21 AMMaddie Wilson | Student Life

If block funding is allocated to a group, it cannot receive any additional money from Student Union. If a group applies for block funding and does not receive it, the group will be funded at the Category-level at which it was last funded.

Senior and Vice President of Finance Vikram Biswas said that this process of block funding allows students to more closely examine budgets than the traditional procedure for Category 1 groups.

“Block funded groups are technically subject to more scrutiny because for [Category] 1 student groups, Treasury decides what they’re funded at, but for block funded groups, the entire student body votes on their budget,” Biswas said.

SU President and senior Kenneth Sng noted that each of these four groups has received block funds previously, but noted that SU cannot endorse any of the petitions.

“Obviously we can’t support or not support any of the groups that are asking for block funding, but we can say that these are groups that have a long history of block funding here at Wash. U. and that students have consistently passed their requests,” he said.

Although all four groups currently receive block funding, each one is asking for more money than it currently receives.

While Habitat, Campus Y and Uncle Joe’s submitted requests for a few thousand dollars more than their last appeals, Emergency Support Team (EST) has requested an increase of $11,000.

However, senior and EST president Suhas Gondi said that the costs of operating the organization have gone up, with training classes increasing in price from $800 to $1,300 per person and an increase in the number of medics being trained. He said that part of this increase is because EST has expanded beyond providing emergency services and now offers CPR training to students at a subsidized cost, as well as engages with the St. Louis community more.

“[When] I was a freshman, basically everything we did, all of our meetings and operations, were based on providing emergency care,” Gondi said. “That’s still our biggest expense and our biggest focus; that’s still our number one priority. However, we now do so many other things in addition to that which I think have really expanded our role on campus.”

Last spring, a WUnderground petition for $1,389,533.12 to purchase a house off campus—which did not receive enough signatures to appear on the ballot—led SU officials to consider revising the rules for the budget process. However, they ultimately decided not to revise the rules.

“I think the coolest thing about block funding is that it’s in the students’ hands. If you think your money would be better suited for a WUnderhouse than funding Category 1 student groups, it’s your choice; it’s your vote,” Biswas said.

To receive block funding, student groups must receive signatures from 15 percent of the student body, or 1,017 signatures, on their initial petitions. Petitions that receive over 1,017 signatures will go on to the ballot for the SU general election, where they can be approved with 66.67 percent of “yes” votes from students.

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