September 21, 2010

Eighty-Four Student Groups Lose Chance For Funding After Computer System Crash

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This year, 84 student groups seeking financial help from the Student Activities Finance Commission may go largely unfunded after missing the second of two necessary deadlines required for funding. According to Dan Gusz ‘11, co-chair of the SAFC, the number of groups that make the first deadline but miss the second usually stands at 30 to 40. Gusz says that more than 100 groups waited until after 3 p.m. on the day of the first deadline to submit the online budget, jamming the system and causing it to crash. At 11 p.m., the SAFC announced that the online deadline was extended while the second deadline, for supporting paper documentation, was left unchanged. The SAFC goes through the online budget, as well as the supporting paper cost estimates and details for trips and durable goods, to determine final allocation. The final allocations will be released later this week. “When asked, most presidents and treasurers who did not turn in documentation have told us that they just assumed the second deadline was extended without actually reading their e-mails,” Gusz said. For these groups, they may still receive some money for administrative costs, but will receive any subsidies for trips, speakers, and durable goods. Gusz says that there is no way for the deadline to be extended for these groups.Iris Hoxha ’13, treasurer of the Pre-Professional Association Toward Careers in Health, spent the week before the Sept. 9 deadline working on a budget for the organization. She said she was meticulous in her work, attending one-on-one help sessions sponsored by the SAFC to make sure her budget was sufficiently outlined. After the budget was approved by the president and members of PATCH, she submitted the budget online to the SAFC on the ninth. Later that day, she received an email, saying that the online deadline had been extended because of technical difficulties. She assumed that the deadline to support paper documentation for the budget, September 13, had been extended as well. When she went into the Assemblies office in Day Hall with her paper documentation on September 16, she was turned away and her documentation was not accepted. As a result, PATCH, which applied for 500 dollars of funds, will receive at most 55 dollars for administrative costs as per SAFC rules. PATCH, which does not rely on member dues, is highly dependent on the SAFC to help with its philanthropy events and a yearly bus trip to SUNY Upstate Medical University, where members meet with doctors and admissions officers to learn about the medical field and its expectations. The organization is still looking for other sources of funding. “The problem with [extending the second deadline] is that you had 300 groups that did everything right,” Gusz said. “It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to our office. When you have 370 groups submitting budgets, it’s too much documentation and we can’t handle that.”Gusz says that emails sent by the SAFC after the crash stressed that the second deadline had not been extended. However, Hoxha says that the abnormally high number of missed second deadlines shows that, though the SAFC thought they had been clear about the process, clarity was still lacking. “I definitely felt highly responsible,” Hoxha said. “On my part I might have been more aware. But how is it possible that 80 organizations missed that deadline? Ultimately, what that shows is that it was still very unclear.” One potential recourse for these 80 groups is special projects funding, originally intended for a group that cannot incorporate unforeseen events into its budget. Previously, the special projects fund was only available to groups who completed the original budgeting process perfectly.Gusz says that the SAFC is still determining the amount of money it will make available for special projects, considering these 84 groups. Gusz says, however, that because of a new influx of groups asking for funding and groups asking for more money than they have to allocate, he isn’t sure whether the fund will contain more money than in the past. Roneal Desai ‘13 was one of the sponsors of an SA resolution last year that expanded the special projects fund to groups who merely submitted an online budget, no matter if supporting documentation was rejected because of mistakes or if no supporting documentation was sent at all. “The situation that happened with the server crash is a perfect example of why this resolution is necessary because students genuinely didn’t do anything wrong here,” he said. “This was just a miscommunication between the SAFC and students.” However, Vincent Andrews ‘11, president of the Student Assembly, says that even this special project funding will not allow groups to receive the full funding that they need if they make mistakes in the process. As a result, he recently sponsored and the SA passed a resolution creating an SAFC review committee, aiming to deliver on a campaign promise of reforming the budgeting system. “There is no recourse for those who make mistakes or miss deadlines to acquire full funding and that’s why were looking into changing the funding process,” Andrews said. “Since all students pay into the system, the system should allow for more access to that funding.”

Original Author: Juan Forrer