Budget cuts place pressure on student organizations

With budget constraints imposed all across campus, student groups have been feeling the pinch to varying degrees. While some groups, including those under the umbrella of the Minority Coalition (MinCo), have been directly affected by budget cuts in terms of the amount of money allocated to them, others are feeling more indirect pressure as former sources of funding tighten their purse strings.

Student groups are funded through various sources, which often depend on the group’s purpose and affiliations within the College. Groups that fall under MinCo, for example, are funded directly by the College as opposed to through student fees. As a result, MinCo organizations faced direct certain budget cuts that groups funded through College Council (CC) managed to escape.

MinCo general accounts – those that fund Asian American Students in Action (AASiA), the Black Student Union (BSU), the Queer Student Union (QSU) and VISTA, the Latina/o organization – were all cut 15 percent for the year. According to Natalie Friedman ’10, MinCo co-chair, the cuts call for more conscientious budgeting and more careful programming. She noted that MinCo-sponsored events, namely MinCo Fest and a MinCo brunch, have smaller budgets this year, but that working within those budgets remains feasible. In addition, MinCo will be more frugal in its allocation of funds to other groups. “When different groups ask us for money, we are asking them to be more modest in their requests, and to also go to other sources for money,” Friedman said.

Nordia Savage ’10, co-chair of the BSU, explained that her organization is feeling both the budget cuts and the closer advising that goes along with it. While acknowledging that the BSU has a larger budget than many other MinCo groups due to a larger membership, Savage said that the BSU has been re-evaluating its programming in terms of funding. The BSU cut its beginning-of-the-year semi-formal brunch in order to redistribute the money elsewhere. Savage also spoke about closer advising of MinCo groups. “There’s been a crackdown,” she said. “The MCC is watching us to make sure we’re spending our money the right way.”

For the QSU, the cuts have also meant some cancelled events, such as trips that were held in previous years, but most on-campus programming will remain relatively unaffected. “In the past, we generally plan a social or educational trip to acclimate students returning to campus and introduce new students to the group,” said Mike Semensi ’12, QSU treasurer. “This year we were unable to organize this event, partly due to lack of funds and partly due to other constraints,” he said. Semensi added that the QSU organized a trip to Montreal last year during Dead Week, but does not expect to be able to repeat that trip. However, Semensi said that the organization does not feel threatened by budget cuts, explaining that much of its programming is co-sponsored by other organizations on campus.

Similarly, AASiA Treasurer Makisha Maier ’10 said that AASiA is not particularly worried about the budget cuts. “It makes it more difficult to fund events, just because we have to be more careful with money,” she said. “We expect to see the effects more when it gets closer to Heritage Month in April, as that budget was cut.”

While these College-funded groups are experiencing cuts, however, others have remained immune. RASAN, for instance, is funded for the first time this year through the Health Center, which, according to treasurer Leanne Lin ’11 was a decision made to protect RASAN’s budget. “I believe it was so to minimize the effects of budget cuts on us, and just being able to be funded by a dependable source,” Lin said.

CC-funded organizations

In comparison to the direct cuts felt by MinCo organizations, CC and CC-funded groups are feeling more peripheral pressure. According to Rachel Hudson ’10, CC treasurer, the entirety of CC’s funding comes from the Student Activities Tax, a $95 fee that students pay for each semester they are on campus. Given that the fee remained constant this year, groups haven’t faced direct cuts.

From its funds, CC provides money to student groups in several ways. Hudson explained that groups that have existed for two or more years are funded through the subgroup process that takes place every year, in which student groups provide CC with budgets, and CC works with each group to determine how much money to allocate. CC also has a general fund, which newer groups can petition for funding. Finally, CC has a co-sponsorship fund which helps support various events throughout the year. According to Hudson, 51 student groups are being funded through the subgroup process this year. Last year, 33 organizations received money from the general fund and the co-sponsorship fund helped sponsor approximately 80 events. In addition, CC funds All-Campus Entertainment (ACE).

“Student organizations are asking CC for more money than usual since they aren’t receiving much from other funding sources that are working with less money,” Hudson said. “This puts pressure on CC to pick up the slack where other funding sources can’t.”

To contend with greater demand, Hudson said that CC is looking more closely at the budget than usual, which includes examining audits of past spending to determine where funding is necessary, as well as asking student groups to better prioritize spending so that CC money goes where it is most needed.

One major change in funding has occurred with respect to the ACE-sponsored Stressbusters events. ACE, an organization funded solely through CC, is technically immune from budget cuts. However, not all ACE events were ACE funded. According to Julianne Feder ’10, ACE president, the funding for Stressbusters has come from Campus Life, whose budget cuts have impelled them to discontinue their sponsorship.

“At the end of last year, we toyed with the idea of cutting Stressbusters, but the members of ACE felt that it was one of the most important components of their programming and highlighted it as a priority,” Hudson said. To continue funding Stressbusters, CC allocated slightly less money to the First Fridays and ACE concerts accounts, which according to Feder, means less “extra special food” and perhaps fewer decorations at First Fridays.

Slightly outside the funding purview of CC, the neighborhoods are experiencing their own financial shifts. According to Joya Sonnenfeldt ’10, president of Spencer neighborhood, each neighborhood receives money each semester from Campus Life, along with an additional portion of the Student Activities Tax based on neighborhood membership. Due to Campus Life’s 15 percent budget cut, neighborhood governance boards (NGBs) have been told to expect less funding from Campus Life.

“The portion of funds from Campus Life exposes the neighborhoods to budget cuts that trickle down from the departmental level,” Sonnenfeldt said. She added that, for Spencer neighborhood, budget cuts may have played a part in increased co-sponsorship requests from student groups. With the same amount of funding as last year, the Spencer Board is, according to Sonnenfeldt, “paying close attention to budgeting events.”

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