Student Finance Committee to Return to Pre-COVID Funding Practices

The Student Finance Committee was able to fund student organizations in excess through the 2021–22 academic year. SFC manages and distributes the student activity fund, and for the past two years had access to a surplus of funds in the absence of in-person events and organization activities. However, SFC has now spent this budget surplus and will return to distribution practices it utilized before the 2019–20 academic year.

To receive funding, student organizations must submit semester budgets to SFC, which undergo a review and approval process by student leaders on the committee. The Student Activity Fund is a pool of mandatory student activity fees collected from almost every College student each semester. For the 2021–22 academic year, each student paid a total of $556 in student activity fees.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the College’s large, SFC-funded events — such as Solarity and Drag Ball — did not occur during the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years. College third-year and SFC co-chair Leo Hidy explained that because SFC did not have to fund these events, the organization entered the 2021–22 academic year with an SAF surplus of over $500,000 and could fund student organizations more liberally than it had in the past.

“SFC is super happy to have seen all the amazing things student organizers have accomplished this year, and we are proud that each dollar from the SAF was put back into the hands of students,” Hidy wrote in an email to the Review.

However, SFC has now spent the entirety of this surplus. The size of the SAF for the 2022–23 academic year will likely be more consistent with the size of the SAF from the 2019–20 academic years. This means that some organizations will not receive as much funding as they did this past school year or all of the funding they requested for the fall 2022 semester.

“This past round of budget requests for [fall ’22] has seen a huge increase in the amount of funds requested,” Hidy wrote. “Unfortunately, we simply do not have enough in the SAF to fund the growth of all these organizations and also ensure that there are enough funds to support the creation of new organizations.”

According to Hidy, SFC seeks to distribute the SAF as equitably as possible, and all organizations large and small will likely face the effects of this change in funding practices.

“All organizations will see a difference in allocation from [2022 — when we had the surplus — to 2023 — when we won’t have the surplus],” Hidy wrote.

Within its funding for student organizations, SFC funds some equipment rentals for the Oberlin Musical Theater Association and student performers. According to OMTA

co-chair and College third-year Olivia Bross, OMTA is not affiliated with the Theater Department and thus does not have access to the department’s supplies.

“As a co-chair of OMTA, I’ve been able to see first-hand how much we rely on the SFC for funding,” Bross wrote in an email to the Review. “Our last OMTA show, Chicago, was very successful, but this was only possible with funding from the SFC due to the lack of supplies from the theater department.”

Hidy expressed interest in potentially collaborating with academic departments such as the Theater Department to alleviate some of these concerns.

“We often get pretty expensive requests for equipment costs that academic departments already have access to like guitars, banjos, microphones, lighting, costumes, cameras, etcetera [sic],” Hidy wrote. “SFC would love to collaborate with academic departments to decrease the burden of equipment costs on the SAF, thus freeing up more funds for student organizations.”

Another group that SFC funds is Student Senate. SFC provides funds for the organization’s payroll. College third-year and SLAC treasurer Izzy Sanchez-Foster argues that this should not be funded through the SAF.

“Student Senate is an organization formed by the school to give students a spot at the administrative table,” Sanchez-Foster wrote in an email to the Review. “From this, it is abundantly clear that the Student Senate is a school-sponsored group and should therefore be funded by the college’s payroll office.”

Besides funding student organizations, the SAF also funds the College Lanes, The ’Sco, Cat in the Cream, and some Residential Education expenditures. When asked why the SAF funds the functioning of some facilities that seem to fall outside the category of student activities, Associate Dean of Students Thom Julian clarified that the SAF is meant to not only fund student organizations but also to generally improve student life on campus.

“The Student Finance Committee allocates money to support student organizations and improve campus life,” Julian wrote in an email to the Review. “To reach this mission, they fund specific programming initiatives on campus that are not official student organizations.”

Hidy clarified that although SFC will have a relatively smaller SAF to manage in the 2022–23 school year, SFC has reserves and is not in a budget deficit.