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FinBoard revises criteria for funding activities

By Joanna Stone

The Undergraduate Association Finance Board has decided to fund the entire cost of student activity events, while curtailing funds for activities' day-to-day operations.

In the past, FinBoard only partially funded the events of many of these activities. According to FinBoard Chairman Nicola J. Bird '91, this manner of funding often resulted in cancellation of the partially funded events because groups were unable to come up with the rest of the money. FinBoard will now fund entire events including all the costs that the event entails. Bird hoped that fully funding fewer events will do away with the surplus that results every year because of all the cancelled events for which FinBoard had allocated money. "We allocate $20,000 a trimester and several thousand of it doesn't get used," Bird said.

Also, FinBoard will now allow groups to be more general in their requests for allocation. In the past, if a group was allocated a certain amount for Lecture Series Committee slides, it could not decide on its own not to have the slides and use the allocated money for a drop poster. Under the new FinBoard guidelines, a group will be allocated a certain amount of money for a certain aspect of its event such as publicity and can decide for itself how to allocate the money within the said heading.

Bird said FinBoard serves the undergraduate student body and thus the money it allocates "should be going to events that effect the undergraduate body as a whole" and not just the select few within a given activity. The changes will allow FinBoard's allocations "to have more effect on the MIT community," she said.

But the changes will for the most part not effect the total amount allocated to each group. "If one looks at the flat total of what has been allocated to each group as compared to last year, one will see that it is not much different," Bird said. The only difference is how the group can spend this flat total.

David P. Carroll '91, former treasurer and current chairperson of Hunger Action, had mixed feelings on the new FinBoard changes and their effects on his group. "It will be easier to do events, but harder to maintain the group as a whole," Carroll said. The new changes will require Hunger Action to spend more time fundraising for itself leaving less time for its other fundraising, he added.

But Carroll did see a positive side to the changes. "We will know that a whole event will be funded and we won't have to worry about taking up the slack for half of it." He also commended the fact that the budget no longer had to be broken down so specifically, allowing activities more control in achieving a specified goal, such as publicity.

Philip J. Nesser '90, chairman of the MIT Science Fiction Society and the Assassins Guild, had varying views on the changes. "In MITSFS, the biggest thing we can't cover is the large event," Nesser said, and the new changes could only help such an endeavor.

"However, in the case of the Assassins Guild, we don't have capital for the day-to-day costs such as photocopying, and we are having problems because we don't get any money for this from FinBoard." He said it would be better if FinBoard would allocate a base sum to each group which would be for unrestricted use. "This would help a lot of organizations to operate," Nesser said.

Liaisons improve process

Nesser noticed a general positive trend within FinBoard. In the past year MITSFS and the Assassins Guild have had much more personal contact with their FinBoard liaisons. "It gave us a feeling of security to know that someone who knew what our requests were about would be at the meeting where the allocations are done," Nesser said.

Each student activity has one of the 14 FinBoard members as a liaison. The liaisons have been a strong force in making the activity groups aware of the changes in funding allocations. To further publicize these changes, FinBoard held a treasurer's seminar in early May. According to Bird, 40 to 50 groups attended the two day seminar. "My treasurer told me that most of the information given at the seminar was fairly common sense -- how to submit request forms, reimbursement forms, etc." Nesser said. In addition to the seminar, the groups were sent two memos informing them of the recent changes.

Another change which is expected to make FinBoard more efficient is its recent computerization. In the past, FinBoard has had difficulty collecting on the interest-free loans it makes to various activity groups. Bird said several thousand dollars in outstanding loans was recently collected by Darian C. Hendricks '89, the former FinBoard chairman. "It was mainly Darian taking the time and going through old records by hand," Bird said. "Computerization will help make sure we don't get into that position again."

A further change, which does not effect Finboard as directly, involves the ASA. In the past, there were two different groups recognizing student activities. The ASA formerly presided over undergraduate group activities and was part of the UA. It would refer undergraduate groups to FinBoard for funding and graduate groups to a GSC committee which was similar to the ASA. ASA now recognizes all activities and is no longer a part of the UA. "The change in ASA is mainly an administrative one, we've already made the group a lot more efficient." said William Robert, Chairman of ASA. According to Robert, the formula for referral remains the same, if a group is 40 percent graduate students it goes to the GSC for funding, if it is 40 percent undergraduates it goes to FinBoard for funding, if it falls into both categories it chooses. Robert said that few fall into both groups. In the past these in between groups would go back and forth between the GSC and FinBoard, "Now everyone knows if a group is in between . . . we provide GSC and FinBoard with the information," Robert said. According to Robert, ASA has no say in funding or criteria, it is solely for recognition of groups.