For the first time in Student Union history, SU senators voted against the proposed Student Activities Fee budget for the fiscal year 2015 at the SU meeting on Tuesday, March 25. The budget, heavily discussed and debated at both Tuesday’s meeting and the meeting the week before, was voted down in a 10-9 ruling.
Since the recommendation was denied, the Student Activities Fee Allocation Committee will meet on Thursday, March 27 to reevaluate the budget, and it will be put to a vote at the meeting on Tuesday, April 1. SAFAC is made up of three students and three faculty members, co-chaired by junior Vice President for Business Affairs Elliott Schermerhorn and Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs Mary Ann Hanicak. The committee determines the annual allocation of the SAF budget of approximately $1.1 million, made up of the $400 factored into each student’s tuition.
Schermerhorn said he doesn’t foresee any major changes resulting from Thursday’s meeting.
“It could stay the same, in which case we just need to find a better way to present it, or it could change, and it would be a very slight changes,” Schermerhorn said. “It would be more so focused on Legion of Student Organizations and Student Union.”
According to the recommendation proposed at the meeting, SAFAC met over the course of the spring 2014 semester to review the Fiscal Year 2015 allocations, and determined the most responsible way to allocate the funds across the 20 organizations the SAF covers. The ultimate decision about the budget, however, is up to Vice President for Student Affairs Mark McCarthy, who was also present at Tuesday’s meeting.
One of the mostly highly discussed aspects of the budget was the fact that some organizations who requested less money for Fiscal Year 2015 ended up being given more money in the proposed budget. The discussion highlighted the Corbo Fitness Room, which was allocated $183,500 although it requested $162,000 – up from $158,000 in Fiscal Year 2014. Hanicak explained that the room is in its worst condition in years, and that the staff often volunteers its time to clean the room to cut costs. Additionally, SAFAC’s evaluations found that the Corbo Room is the most utilized of the 20 organizations that the SAF funds.
Hanicak said allocations are based solely on which organizations prove with legitimate evidence that their group benefits the entire student body. SAFAC instated a more detailed evaluation process for how funds were used three years ago to ensure proper allocation. She said programs that get more money are the ones that are “proving beyond a shadow of a doubt how impactful their programs are.”
“We go based on the facts and the evidence that we’re given, and we cannot in good conscience make other decisions,” said Hanicak.
SU is one of the organizations that was granted less than they requested; $40,000 as opposed to the requested $50,000 (which was a cutback from the $56,000 it got in FY 14).
SU President Tim Ficke explained why SU requested less this year: “We haven’t been using it all. We want to be cognizant of other allocations who need it more than us.”
SUPB also got a budget cut in the recommendation, a move which was not well-received by some. It recently took on responsibility for funding Residence Life Cinema – which has a $13,700 price tag – but was slashed $7,000 in the proposed budget.
Despite the disagreements about the allocations, all parties agree that the discussion is necessary to ensure the best use of funds.
“The sole purpose of the fee is to directly give back to the students, so you should feel confident when you pay your SAF it will be used in the best way possible,” said Ficke.
Sophomore Cole Hassay, vice president for student organizations, said, “When you have that much money at stake, there’s going to be varying opinions on the matter.” Hassay is in charge of Student Organization Budget Board, which gives money to student organizations that request it. Student Organization Budget Board asked for a $55,000 allocation for FY 15, but the proposed budget gave it the same $50,000 it received this year.
Hanicak named SUPB, SU and SOBB as the three organizations that have room for improvement in how they use their money and submit evaluations to SAFAC.
“But I think there are some really easy solutions to how that can happen,” she said.