In upcoming weeks, Student Senate will be undergoing the spring finance process in which the budget is planned for the upcoming academic year. In the interest of increasing communication between the Senate and the student body, a forum was held last Thursday in which all were invited to attend to ask questions and suggest changes they would like to see made in the funding process.
“The current by-laws in place were created several years ago so this year we are asking the student body if those laws are still sufficient for the student body and if they are still relevant. We wanted to hear if we needed to allocate differently at all,” Junior Jessica Flannery, chair of the Finance Committee said.
The forum was the first of its kind for the current Student Senate members.
“As a whole, the Senate has been making a push to open up dialogue between the Senate and the student body in order to get people more in tune with what we are doing,” Flannery said. We are really trying to make the finance process clear to organizations applying for budgets so the forum seemed a good way for them to ask any questions they had.”
For organizations around campus, the push to open up communication is appreciated.
“I am happy to see the Senate asking us questions and requesting feedback regarding whether or not the allocations are sufficient. Their willingness to consider changes to the by-laws shows a willingness to accommodate to changing times and demands,” Senior and president of the Communication Studies Club Steven Manley said.
Other groups on campus, such as Building Bridges, who create budget and financial plans later in the year, are working with the Senate to solve issues with the timeliness of budget allocations.
“For our conference, we must wait to begin planning the next year’s conference until co-chairs are elected which does not happen until after the budgets are due to the Senate and then planning begins over the summer for the conference,” Junior Kate Redden, a Building Bridges executive, said. “We have been working with the Senate for a while now in an attempt to find a better solution to help us get money when we need it more easily and they have been very good about opening up communication and working with us. I hope that this positive collaboration continues into the future.”
Currently, the by-laws control what the Senate can allocate money to for each group and how much can be allocated. For instance, the Senate will not fund prizes or giveaways, charities or food for general meetings or get-togethers.
“Because our budget comes from each individual’s activity fee, we only provide funds for things that we deem are accessible to and will enrich the campus. Within these constraints, we are very interested in hearing what students would like to see more money put toward,” Flannery said.
This year, over ninety organizations will submit budgets to the Senate Finance Committee for approval. Once the committee reviews the budget request, they will make a recommendation which will be presented to the full Senate during the last three meetings of the year which are reserved entirely for budget planning.
“A lot of people really do not realize how difficult and complicated the process can actually be. The committee puts in a lot of thought and effort into appropriating funds for the student body in ways that are most beneficial to the campus as a whole. So many hours go into this,” Junior Erik Bryz-Gornia, a member of the Student Senate with three years of experience, said. “I would definitely say the hardest part about the process is keeping a fresh perspective for each budget throughout the meetings when we are reviewing them from 7:00 p.m. until midnight when we are kicked out of the campus center.”
Organizations are responsible for submitting budgets at one of three different meetings during March, with official dates to be announced soon. Budgets will be reviewed by the full Senate on April 30, May 7, and May 14, 2012 beginning at 7:00 p.m. each night. The meetings are open to the public and student organizations are encouraged to attend on the night when their budget is set to be reviewed to answer any questions or concerns the Senate might have.
“The hard part about this process is telling people no. A lot of groups may leave disappointed with what they were given, but the fact is, we are usually asked for three times the amount of money we have to give. Last year, we received requests for over $300,000 when we only had a $185,000 budget,” Flannery said.
Recommendations and suggestions for possible changes to fund allocations will be taken into account before the committee begins looking at budgets.
“The full Senate does have the power to increase the amount of funds that go to certain things. Last year funds were distributed with a higher priority for speakers, travel and registration fees for conferences and competitions. After that, food was funded mostly for cultural events or other events where food was integral to the gathering and not merely supplemental,” Flannery said. “A lot of people are requesting additional money for food so that is something we have to think about.”
For more information about Student Senate and the budget planning process, students are encouraged to look at the Student Senate page on the Gustavus website (http://studentsenate.blog.gustavus.edu/) or to contact Flannery or any other Senate member with questions they may have.