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Proposed Finboard Legislation Would Reform Funding Process

By Anna K. Benefiel

A legislative package which proposes major changes to the Undergraduate Association Finance Board was released yesterday. The proposed legislation will be formally announced at this Monday’s UA meeting.

Co-written by Association of Student Activities Treasurer Matthew L. McGann ’00 and UA New House Representative Jeremy D. Sher ’99, the proposed legislation aims to fundamentally reform Finboard’s funding-allocations process, on multiple levels.

The “central issues” they wished to discuss were flexibility in student group budgets and freedom over the budget, McGann said.

“The proposal serves everybody’s interests better than what we’ve got,” Sher said. Sher said he hoped to see a large student presence at the meeting to enable the UA to effectively “hear the students’ voice on this issue.”

According to a press release issued by Sher and McGann, the proposed legislation would make the Finboard process more efficient, fair, effective, and “easier and more pleasant to use.” Although “currently the UA does an adequate job of disbursing funds... the UA can and should do better,” the release states.

In an interview with McGann and Sher, both noted that students repeatedly voice concerns about how Finboard allocates funding. According to McGann and Sher, student frustration is directed at the “blanket ban on funding ‘non-cultural’ food” and the process itself, which can seem unnecessarily complicated. The new proposal recommends, among other things, an explicit repeal on the current food-funding ban, and the proposal calls for a simpler, more accessible funding-allocations process.

Proposals endorse ‘block grants’

Specifically, the proposal advocates disbursing money in categorical “block grants,” moving funding away from “particular budget items” towards greater spending flexibility. Proposed categories include Events, Capital, Operating, Printing and Publicity, and Unrestricted Funds, which would be available to for spending in any category.

The proposal also recommends a direct reimbursement process made possible by SAP, a German software package for accounting which is currently successfully organizing student group finances in an on-going pilot program.

In response to questions regarding potential abuses in a system with increased freedom, Sher asserted that “student group leaders are basically trustworthy” and also pointed out that groups would still be subject to an end of term “auditing process” involving submission of receipts.

Sher and McGann would also like to see student group treasurers “attend finance training sessions” in an effort to “enhance accountability” at all levels of the funding process. Other overall objectives of the proposal include “enab[ling] self-determination” of student groups and asking the UA to “assume [financial] risk responsibility.”

While the “Finance Board receives more requests for funding than it can grant” but the current funding process is “neither appropriate nor desirable,” Sher said.

The current system is an undue “burden on student leaders,” Sher said. “The UA does need some reasonable oversight on group expenditures,” he added.

The UA tries “to be the campus’s social engineers” and should just “let things happen a little bit” to avoid “stifling student group creativity,” Sher said. According to McGann, adopting this proposal would provide a dramatically improved system for students.

In explaining why the pair has chosen to present their reforms now, Sher said that the package of proposals “have evolved over the past year,” and they are now “at the stage when a final package [is] ready for vote.”

Although the legislation will be introduced this Monday, the UA is not expected to vote on the proposal until the meeting afterwards, which will be on Mar. 29.