To the Editors:
The Student Finance Committee, in collaboration with the Office of the Student Treasurer, has completed Spring Budgeting and has sent budgets for the next fiscal year back to student groups. In line with our commitment to improve financial transparency on Oberlin’s campus we would like to take this opportunity to describe this year’s Spring Budgeting process and some of the guidelines we followed when making our allocation decisions.
This year, the deadline for budget submissions was Friday, Feb. 25, approximately a month earlier than previous years. The SFC decided to collect budgets earlier to allow more time to budget and thereby make more thoughtful allocations. The SFC reviewed 121 budgets and allocated a total of $782,366.44 of $1,091,960.57 requested. As per structural changes made last year, allocations to club sports groups were made by the Club Sports Council in collaboration with Betsy Bruce. The SFC would like to recognize the Club Sports Council’s efforts in helping with the allocation process this year, and looks forward to working with them in the future.
In making allocation decisions, the SFC considered groups’ past and current spending of allocated funds, the itemization and detail of the budget, and the quantity and size of intended programming. The SFC was hesitant to fund groups that spent minimal portions of their current allocations or did not spend their funds at all, for fear that those groups would again not use the allocated funds and thereby tie up student activity funds in inactive accounts during the next fiscal year. If an organization feels that their current spending does not reflect the actual activity of their group, the SFC would like to encourage them to ad hoc in the fall with an explanation of their current year’s activity and their intentions for the fiscal year.
Secondly, groups that did not provide itemized budgets, inventories, or clear descriptions of their plans for requested funds were asked to submit a more detailed proposal in the fall. The SFC felt uncomfortable allocating funds when it was unsure of how the money would be spent.
Lastly, considering the size of the Student Activity Fund in comparison to the amount of money requested, the SFC could not possibly fully fund every budget. The SFC wanted to emphasize its belief in quality over quantity, and therefore thought it appropriate to fund larger, distinctive events that are accessible to the entire student body.
A priority during budgeting was to lower honorarium rates. Over the last few years, the SFC has noticed increased payments for honorariums, including instances when speakers have returned to campus a couple years later for four times the former fee. The SFC, OST, and their respective administrative advisers felt that students should negotiate more aggressively over honoraria to get more use out of the Student Activity Fund. Therefore the SFC institutionalized policies regarding honoraria paid to invited speakers and, with some exceptions, allocated an average of $500 per speaker. The SFC would like to remind student groups that they are welcome to ad-hoc next year for additional financing towards honoraria, should their intended speaker require a higher speaking fee. The SFC would also like to encourage student groups to approach additional sources of funding available such as Forum Board and the Fagerstrom Fund for further monetary assistance.
We, the SFC, invite respectful thoughts, comments, and dialogue on this year’s allocations. We spent upwards of 50 hours on Spring Budgeting, including a weekend of prolonged budgeting in a conference room at a hotel in North Olmsted. We would like to remind student groups of the appeals process, should they feel that their budget was funded arbitrarily or a miscommunication led to an erroneous allocation. All appeals will be addressed at the beginning of the fall semester. We would also like to recommend that student groups seek additional funding through the ad-hoc process in the fall when they have sufficient information on their programming expenditures.
The SFC would like to cordially invite students to Coffee with the Committee at Azariah’s Café on Tuesday, May 10 at 9 p.m. Members of the Student Finance Committee and the Office of the Student Treasurer will be available to answer any questions regarding Spring Budgeting, policies or general concerns about the student financial system. The Committee looks forward to working with student organizations next year.
The Student Finance Committee:
Abbas Mohsin, SFC-Elected Co-Chair
Nick Bauer, Senate-Elected Co-Chair
Office of Student Treasurer:
Dion Diederich, Student Treasurer
CJ Penso, Assistant Student Treasurer
Phil Reisen, Committee Coordinator