April 5, 2011

SAFC Gets $10K Loan to Finance Student Groups

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After the Student Assembly granted the appeals of 27 student groups previously denied funding by the Student Assembly Finance Commission, the S.A. unanimously approved a $10,803.50 loan to the SAFC Thursday to pay the organizations.

Although much of the money used to fund the overturned appeals was drawn from the SAFC’s appeals and special projects fund, the S.A. granted so many additional groups funding that the SAFC was left with an insufficient amount of funds, according to Adam Nicoletti ’12, vice president of finance on the S.A.

This left approximately $2,500 for special projects funding when groups rely on $13,360. This loan was intended to make up the deficit, Niccoletti said.

Nicoletti said that even though the S.A. granted a similar percentage of appeals as last year, the number of groups appealing their funding allocation — up from 14 last year to 35 this year — meant that the amount of money granted through the S.A.’s appeals process was also greater than usual.

“Obviously there’s going to be a lot more money with more groups. Even if they overturned the same percentage of appeals, there is more money in question,” he said.

According to Ari Epstein, assistant director at the Office of Assemblies, in the last six years, there has never been a loan of this kind made from the S.A. to the SAFC.

The money from the loan was taken out of the S.A. budget reserve, which is comprised of extra funding set aside from past budget surpluses, and it will not affect any other budgeting categories of the S.A., Nicoletti said.

“Because [the budget reserve] was sitting there not doing very much, it was a prime candidate for the loan. It [came out of] money we really weren’t using,” Nicoletti said.

The loan, which is expected to be paid back to the S.A. by July 1, will be repaid using funds from student groups that did not use all their allotted funding.

“All the money given to groups should be used, but the reality is that it’s not all used. Usually, about 20 percent of funding [given to groups] is not spent,” Nicoletti said.

Many of these appeals were granted because of SAFC errors, Nicoletti said. However, Nicoletti said that some S.A. decisions were made by the S.A. Appropriations Committee to support the appeal despite the fact that the SAFC made no errors.

“There were a few circumstances where this was the case, but for the vast majority, [the S.A.] did a good job determining appeals on the basis of whether the SAFC erred or not,” he said.

Lauren Rosenblum ’11, co-chair of the SAFC, countered that the SAFC made few errors and that the S.A. granted the appeals because of precedent that it had set in the past.

“There were a little more than a handful of appeals that the S.A. felt very strongly should not have been granted, but they decided to grant them. A few groups made arguments saying that in the past, funds had been granted despite the group’s error, and because precedent was set back then, the S.A. granted funding appeals for these groups,” Rosenblum said.

Rosenblum attributed these decisions partly to political motivation on the part of S.A. members, many of whom plan to run for re-election.

“[Members of the S.A.] want to make everyone happy, and that fuels the fire — more organizations [will then] think if they file an appeal then they might get approved by –the S.A.,” Rosenblum said.

Rosenblum was not alone in this belief.

“The S.A.’s decision to use SAFC special projects funds to bail out student groups was somewhat of an unfunded mandate,” said S.A. Arts and Sciences Representative Jon Rau ’12. “Such a move shows how the S.A. is by nature a political body.”

Still, Nicoletti said that the loan was made by the S.A. with the knowledge that it carried no risk.

“We really have no official responsibility to give [the SAFC] this loan, because special projects aren’t guaranteed [to student groups that apply], but to make the process easier for student groups, we thought this was the right decision going forward,” Nicoletti said.

According to Nicoletti, this loan is indicative that reforms are all the more necessary for the SAFC funding process for student organizations.

Original Author: Cindy Huynh