April 14, 2011

Student Assembly Changes Funding Process for Student Organizations

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In response to vocal student discontent, the Student Assembly voted Thursday to revamp the funding process for Student Assembly Finance Commission-funded groups.

“The groups who choose to take advantage of the changes will find a much more forgiving and friendlier process,” said Vincent Andrews ’11, president of the Student Assembly and sponsor of the resolution passed unanimously Thursday.

This year, several groups complained about the SAFC application process, which they said allowed little room for error. Under the old system, if a group made a mistake in its application, it would be denied funding for that semester, Andrews said.

While groups previously appealed their funding decisions to the SAFC, under its previous guidelines, the SAFC could only reverse decisions when the SAFC itself erred. The groups’ only recourse, if denied funding in the SAFC appeals’ process, was to appeal the decision to the full S.A.However, following the passage of the new resolution, groups are now able to present new documentation and correct their errors during SAFC appeal hearings.This year, 41 groups appealed their allocation decisions to the SAFC. The SAFC overturned its previous decsion not to fund the groups, admitting that the SAFC erred. The S.A. overturned decisions for another 15 groups. Lauren Rosenblum ‘11, co-chair of the SAFC, previously told The Sun that the high number of reversals on the part of the S.A. was a result of political motivation. “[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.Adam Nicoletti ’12, vice president of finance on the Student Assembly, said that the changes would reduce the number of appeals, which he said were on “a higher side of normal” this year, and make the funding process easier for organizations.“I definitely think we’ll see a decline in S.A. appeals,” he said. “Again, there are a lot of elements up in the air, but most of the groups this semester appealed because they accidentally forgot a piece of documentation.” Another change that will affect SAFC-funded groups is the option for groups to apply for funding on an annual basis instead of a semester-by-semester basis. If groups choose, they will be able to plan for the full year in the fall without having to apply again in the spring. Though SAFC co-chair Kevin Song ’12 spoke during the S.A. meeting Thursday expressing the SAFC’s concerns about the changes, citing the amount of added work that would fall upon the SAFC, he later said he looked forward to implementing the changes gradually. “We are really excited to implement these changes, but they’re going to have to be gradual to not upset commissioners and student groups,” Song said.  “We will look five years down the line and say we did a good thing.”Chris House grad, president and captain of Shake Ultimate, an ultimate frisbee club team, said that his organization would have benefited from the proposed changes this year, as they were denied funding due to mistakes in their documentation. “This resolution would have saved us a week of time that we spent preparing for the S.A. appeal and would have gotten everything resolved sooner, which would have eliminated a lot of undue stress,” House said. Shake Ultimate was denied funding for submitting a funding application that contained a printout of an email from an event organizer instead of webpage of the event itself, House said.  Representatives of the S.A. and SAFC worked together over the course of a year on an ad hoc committee to propose the changes, Andrews said. “It was heated at times and that’s because there was a lot of space between both sides. It was a long march to the middle to find some common ground to agree on,” Andrews said.Song, co-chair of the SAFC, voiced concerns during the meeting Thursday about the proposed changes and the workload that they would create for SAFC commissioners. “The commission in its entirety is pretty worried about these changes,” he said.  “The way I describe it is changing it from a catering business to a full restaurant. You don’t know how many customers you’re going to get.”Song said that he would be working with the SAFC to draft an implementation plan, adding that some changes are likely to occur immediately while others might take as long as a year. Song said after the meeting that the commissioners would face significant challenges as they implement the plan.Another change to the funding process will be the elimination of separate SAFC allocations for co-organized events. Now, if groups wish to jointly organize events, they will have to fund from their individual budgets.  Ari Epstein ’04, assistant director of the Office of Assemblies, said that the proposed changes were sent to student group leaders and faculty advisers, and his office  received only positive feedback. “These look like great revisions. The funding timing has always been problematic and undermines the efforts of the students. I support [the changes] fully,” Prof. Sheila Danko, design and environmental analysis, wrote to Epstien’s office, according to a doccument from the office.  Epstein, who served as a member of the S.A. for two years when he was an undergraduate, said that the changes represented an impressive change for an organization whose leadership overturns frequently. “I think that was the most helpful and productive exchange between the S.A. and SAFC that I have seen. I’m glad they were able to be more candid about their concerns,” Epstein said.

Original Author: Juan Forrer