Whenever money is being allocated, complaints are bound to arise. The aftermath of the club budgeting process for 2013-2014 is no exception. This time around, however, some of the complaints are warranted. Senate stated that budgets would need to be trimmed this year, but inconsistencies in the process and concerns about the need to cut in the first place call into question Senate’s dedication to minimizing bureaucratic rigmarole and expediting student access to their money.
Every year, clubs complain about not receiving all of the money they’ve requested, which is an unfortunate reality of dealing with both a high level of demand and a limited budget. Club budgets come from the student activity fee, which was $354 per student this past year. The activity fee also pays for other things, such as publication budgets, but a considerable chunk of it goes toward funding club activities. With Knox planning to add around 50 additional students next year, the amount of money available for clubs will only increase.
This is the first, but not the only, reason to call into question the need to cut club budgets. When clubs do not get all of the money that they requested, they often make additional funds requests for specific events, the majority of which are granted. The Finance Committee has said that it would prefer not to give clubs money for events, such as bringing in outside speakers, that they aren’t sure are going to happen. While this is a legitimate point, each additional funds request necessitates considerable paperwork and time on the part of both the club and the Finance Committee. It seems as though much unnecessary work could be prevented by considering giving more money to clubs in the first place.
And finally, there are fewer clubs that applied for funding this year. For the 2012-2013 school year, there were 73 budgeted clubs. For the upcoming year, there will be 64. Coupled with the larger amount of student activity fee money, this makes it seem even less sensible to cut club budgets.
Yet several restrictions were placed on budgets this year: clubs were advised not to apply for money for food, for instance, even though food is one of the easiest ways to draw people to events and expand club visibility and membership. When clubs did put food in their budgets, it was not always cut by the Finance Committee during their review of draft budgets, leading clubs to believe they would get their money only to have it slashed in the final stages of the process.
Trimming fat off of club budgets in a uniform way implies that all clubs are identical; in reality, some clubs only spend money on food, while others do not purchase food (or other things that were restricted) and therefore received much higher budgets. This meant some clubs effectively had their entire budgets cut — a devastating blow especially to new clubs looking to grow their presence on campus. Thanks to the additional funds request process, however, these clubs will simply request the money later and likely receive it, a course of action encouraged by the Finance Committee itself. Extra bureaucracy is unproductive and hardly increases student trust in the efficacy and efficiency of Student Senate.
In future years, Senate needs to publicize at least an approximation of how much money it has to allocate so that clubs can better judge whether there is a real need to cut their budgets. Senate also needs to carefully consider the cost in time and resources of making additional funds requests for items that could have been included in the initial budget. If clubs end up misusing or not using their money, thereby keeping it from other students, they can and should be penalized for it.
But clubs for whom there is no reason to make drastic cuts should not have to suffer from policies that treat all student organizations as identical.