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Source: UA Finance Board Website and UA Meeting Minutes
Student groups have gotten less funding in recent semesters from the UA Finance Board, even as the UA as been setting aside more money for student groups. Usually, the Finance Board is expected to allocate 15 percent more than the UA gives it, because not every cent handed out is actually spent by student groups. This year, the Finance Board gave out $16,000 less than the UA budgeted for it.
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Due in part to stricter standards for funding requests, the Undergraduate Association Finance Board gave out much less money to student groups than it has in the past. Student groups received $93,697, about $16,000 less than the UA authorized Finboard to allocate. Also, a recent Senate bill that would route unspent UA money into Finboard’s account was tabled in October over concerns about its constitutionality.

Because student groups typically don’t spend all the money they’re given, Finboard is expected to allocate 15 percent more money than it receives from the UA. For instance, for Spring 2009, Finboard was given $97,466 by the UA, but actually handed out $112,169 to student groups. For fall 2009, Finboard was granted $95,700, so it was supposed to have handed out about $110,000. Instead, by the end of the appeals round this September, Finboard had only given out $93,697. Finboard chair Danielle J. Wang ’11 told The Tech in June that Finboard would be more strict in handing out funds and would be looking for more detail in requests from student groups.

In a few weeks, Finboard will hold a meeting to clarify funding guidelines. As UA Treasurer Alexander W. Dehnert ’12 admits, the recent Finboard decisions do not reflect all of the funding philosophies posted on the Finboard website.

One goal is to give “similar amounts of money to groups that do similar things,” — but this has not been the case for several groups. For example, a capella groups the Cross Products and Techiya both applied for about $1000 this fall, but Techiya got around $700 and the Cross Products only $400. Two student religious organizations, the Asian Baptist Student Koinonia and Hindu Students Council, both requested about $1800, but the Hindu Council got $1700 and the Asian Baptists only $800.

Dehnert said that one of the more important funding philosophies is ensuring that groups get about the same amount of money per member. But that has not always been the case either. Casino Rueda has about 15 members, but it received approximately the same funding as the National Society of Black Engineers, which reports that it has over 100.

Additional UA Funding

Senate Bill 41 U.A.S. 2.3, proposed by UA Treasurer Alex Dehnert ’12, would permit UA committee chairs to transfer unspent money to Finboard. Dehnert said the purpose of the bill was to make sure the UA got a chance to spend all its money every term. Currently, money that the UA doesn’t spend gets moved into the UA’s reserve account at the end of each semester. It is hard to then get that money back.

The UA Judicial Board ruled that the bill violates the section of the UA constitution that says the UA Senate has final say on how UA money is spent. Committee chairs are not allowed to transfer money without Senate approval.

An amendment to the bill would have the Senate vote every time a committee wanted to transfer money. But according to UA Senate Speaker Paul Baranay ’11, it is still not clear whether this amendment makes the bill constitutional. In fact, this debate has prompted some to consider amending the UA constitution to clarify who has final funding authority. The bill has been tabled and awaits further discussion.

Even if the bill does pass, it is unclear how the additional funds would affect current allocation.

Reactions to Allocations

To his knowledge, Dehnert has not heard any complaints about this fall’s allocations. Some groups are struggling, though, because of the decline in allocations. The Muses, who requested $7,100 but only received $800, are struggling to record their new album. They’ve attempted to raise funds by contacting alumni and parents of current members, as well as selling old CDs.

Dehnert said that, in light of the recession, the Student Activities Office anticipates many groups will start spending all of the money Finboard gives them. As a result, Finboard will not be able to overallocate as much as it has in the past. This spring, Finboard will target a 10 percent over-allocation, down from 15 percent. Not much should change, though, because Finboard’s tightening coincides with an increase in the student life fee, which has enabled the Senate to allot an additional $7,000 to Finboard next semester.

Funds for IAP and spring semester will be apportioned at the end of November.