April 24, 2008

S.A. to Discuss SAFC Revisions

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Every semester, hundreds of student organizations on campus dread the intricate process of requesting funds from the Student Assembly Finance Committee, but that may all change today when the S.A. votes on the SAFC’s revised edition of the rules and regulations handbook.
After spending the past six weeks discussing new guidelines for the funding process, the SAFC is prepared to submit their revised edition.
According to Taylor Mulherrin ’09, co-chair of the SAFC, the latest changes are meant to make the process easier for applicants, easing frustrations and dissatisfaction with the SAFC.
“Right now its just sort of a mess and causing a lot of groups headaches,” said Mulherrin. “We are going to shorten it up and make it more logical.”
With an available yearly budget of about $1.2 million, the SAFC currently funds over 350 organizations at Cornell. While never short on applicants to quickly empty this pot, the SAFC has often been criticized by student groups fed-up with difficult rules and forms.
Justin Orr ’08, member of the Men’s Club Volleyball Team, said that his biggest complaint is the confusing paperwork.
“If you mess up anything, they deny your request instead of just letting you fix it,” he said.
Right now, the rulebook is a combination of the original rules and amendments that have been added over the years, put together with little organization. For example, duplicate requirements appear throughout with different wordings, and old, circumstantial rules with no current purpose jumble up otherwise simple statements.
By creating a new chapter system for better organization, rewriting confusing jargon and filling in gray areas, the revisions can make the application process more student-friendly, said Jack Castle ’09, the other SAFC co-chair.
According to Chelsea Clarke ’10, treasurer for the Sustainability Hub, the problem lies in the online form required for requests. Because the form is so long and cannot be saved at any point, you need to have everything in front of you and plenty of time to do it in one sitting, she said.
This is one of many problems under review by the SAFC, and there are plans to create a new, easier to use application, said Mulherrin.
“You shouldn’t be an expert on budgeting just to get funding for your group,” he said.
But just changing the application process on paper and online may not completely solve the difficulties experienced by some groups. The SAFC also plans to retrain all those involved with the process to get everyone on the same page on the requirements — something that many organizations deem necessary to better assist people with questions.
“If nobody fully understands the rules or cares to help, the process is unbelievably time consuming and stressful. I gave up on applying for funding this past semester,” said Perry Solem ’08, president of the Squash Club.
If approved today, these changes will be the beginning of many in the organization and proceedings of the SAFC, said Castle. With new focus on making the committee more transparent and helpful to organizations around campus, next year will see further improvements, he said.
Rob McCormack ’08, president of Anglers at Cornell, said, “If the SAFC can successfully streamline and reform the application process, as well as better educate members and Cornell employees, I think that there will be a lot more deserving student groups getting the money they need.”