New Budgeting Process Announced to Improve “Equity, Transparency, and Collaboration”

The budgeting process for student clubs and organizations is getting revamped, and starting in the fall, the way that funding is allocated to these groups will look quite different. The changes to the budgeting process were announced on Monday at an open forum held by Mike Elias, Assistant Dean of the College and Director of Student Engagement and Leadership.

“Budgeting has never been something that people are ever happy with,” said Saumya Varma ‘18, Students’ Council (SC) Co-President and a member of the Student Leadership Advisory Committee (SLAC), the group that created the new budgeting structure. “I think what we really wanted to do was see whether there was a way that we could not only make people happier, but make it more equitable and also make it more transparent.”

The new system will introduce a number of changes, starting with how we define different groups on campus. Rather than lumping all groups together and having them apply for funding from one large pot of money, groups will be divided into clubs and organizations, which will now be two distinct categories with slightly different amounts of funding available to them. The line between clubs and organizations is drawn based on the group’s role on campus; a group will be categorized as an organization if it is “focused on education, engagement, and event production,” such as affinity groups, while groups that are “primarily focused around interests, activities, and recreations” will be defined as a clubs, according to Elias’ presentation at the open forum. Organizations will also be broken down further into sub-categories: affinity groups, academic and pre-professional, visual and performing arts, service and activism, spiritual and religious life, and community housing. Activities and recreation, formerly clubs, will form their own category, though they will not be considered organizations. According to Elias, the current list of student groups can be separated into about 57 organizations and 65 clubs using these new guidelines.

“I think one thing we face a lot every year is that we don’t have a consistent number of clubs because clubs are something that people can start whenever they want and…can come and go depending on what the interest of the student body is,” said Varma.

At the open forum, Elias said that each sub-category will receive about $12,000 and organizations within that category can apply for a chunk of that funding.  All clubs will be grouped together and can apply for funding from a separate pool of about $50,000. Elias said that if there is any additional money in the budget in a given semester, it can be “divided proportionally” among groups. He added that the clubs can be grouped together because their “funding requests [are] relatively consistent,” while those of organizations may ask for different amounts of funding because their “needs [are] changing.”

“Right now…you don’t know when which club is going to get how much money so this kind of adds a little more structure,” said Varma.

Historically honored commitments such as Haverfest, BLAST, SECS, club sports, and FAB, among others, will be taken out of this equation altogether.  (At the open forum, some questions were also raised about what qualifies as an honored commitment and how we will track them over time.)

Elias said that he hopes these changes will help to improve oversight of student groups, so that they will be able to see if “a group isn’t active for a semester or asking for lots of money but not following through.” He added that another major goal is for groups to be able to see what others are doing more easily in order to foster “better collaboration among groups falling into the same category.”

Varma added that, in addition to creating more collaboration on events among groups, the new plan may also make budgeting more efficient by reducing the number of “multiple requests” that Students’ Council receives from different clubs for the same items.

Varma also added:

“Students’ Council turns over every year, so you have a new set of treasurers every year and the budgeting process changes every year… so if this is in place and it’s being follow then hopefully it will make the process a little bit more consistent even though we have so much turnover.”

While Elias said that there will be greater equity across categories of organizations, some differences may still persist.

“[We] do recognize that there are some groups that get more money than others, but that’s just the nature of it,” said Elias.

According to the Students’ Constitution, some of the criteria for getting funding includes: “the degree to which funding will benefit all students of the college, the number of participants in or contributors to the activity, the degree to which the funding will fill an unrepresented niche, past financial practices (i.e. unreasonable overspending or under- spending), attendance at the Student Club Meeting, and the student demand for such an activity, product, or service.

The new budgeting plan comes from SLAC, which was formed this fall to “identify and address issues, initiatives, and projects that relate to Haverford’s clubs and organizations, build leadership development opportunities, craft new policies, assess our current program offerings, and/or develop new all-campus events.”  According to Elias and Varma, the process for creating a new budgeting system started in the fall, when the Student Activities Office (SAO) sent out a survey to groups, asking them to categorize themselves. From there, they said, SLAC was able to create new guidelines for what an organization is and look over the budget to make sure that the new categories and the groups’ funding requests lined up.

“We had decided this last semester, but the reason we didn’t implement it this semester is because we didn’t want to surprise people or rush people with it,” said Varma.

Varma said that this change will not go through plenary, since “the Constitution doesn’t really have guidelines on how to allocate the money.”

At the open forum on Monday, students raised questions about collaboration between groups in different sub-categories and the extent to which one group’s funding requests will affect all of the other groups in the same sub-category. Some students also expressed mixed reactions to the new process that was announced.

“This will hopefully have little effect on my clubs, but if the other clubs in my categories start asking for more money, that will have a bigger impact on how much my clubs are allocated under the new system,” said Chris Pence ‘18, who is treasurer for Brew Club, Full Lunar Mooner and the Mainliners, and also involved in Lame Ducks Ice Hockey and HavOC. “SLAC and Mike Elias hope this will increase collaboration within categories of clubs, but it also could lead to competition and resentment. In smaller categories, such as one category with only four clubs in it, your budget could be greatly affected by how much other clubs choose to budget for.”

According to Elias, the application process for clubs to get funding will remain the same. Groups will also still be able to apply to the Rufus Jones Fund.

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