By Erik Squire
Hola mi amigos! You only have to hold out a little longer for spring break, yeehaw! I don’t know about the rest of you studious folks, but I’m getting out of Maine for my break. Heck, I would sure like to go to the Bahamas after battling all of this snow, but I’m allergic to sand and porpoises. Also, I can’t quite afford it on the salary given to me by The Beacon (because it’s non-existent). Speaking of empty banks accounts, the Student Senate has recently run out of their Student Organization fund. To get a better look into what caused the Student Senate to run out before the new fiscal year, The Beacon conducted a couple interviews with some of the top dogs in the Senate.
As a point of reference, each year the Student Senate manages an $80,000 budget. This fund is made up of your Student Activity Fee and it is allocated out as follows: $32,000 for student organizations, $32,000 for activities, $7000 for the student newspaper, $4000 miscellaneous, $4000 for Writ, and $1000 for Chorus.
The Beacon reached out to Student Senate Vice-President Danni Olsen and asked what her thoughts were on the budget being used up before the end of the fiscal year.
“Last year we didn’t run out as quickly as we did this year. Last year it was more lax, we had less clubs, and we didn’t have as much student involvement. It was growing, but it wasn’t as fast as it is now. We had a steady flow; people understood how the guidelines worked and how requesting money worked. We had a Senate full of ‘lawyers’; they tore apart everything so nothing was getting funded as quickly as it is now. Things were being argued, being tabled, being discussed. Every request for funds that was put out was being torn apart. Granted it was lax, but when it came to money, it was super structured at that point, maybe even overly structured.”
In this year’s financial issues, Olsen stated:
“At this point, I think we need to bring back that structure, because now we have nothing. We have nothing for any of the clubs starting out this semester. We ran into the issue where we had caps for clubs, about food; you were only allowed to do one or two food events in a semester. And because the nursing club fought against it, we don’t have that anymore. So now we have clubs requesting almost two grand for food.”
She continued, “We also have clubs requesting $4,000 for something that looks good for the school, but at the same time you’re taking activity money. And it’s not anything that would even benefit students.”
Olsen feels that the money is properly used when it goes to clubs that are going to spend it well. She then talked about a few clubs that she considered good examples: “A lot of clubs are open to all students, like the gaming club for instance; we have a good thirty members that come consistently, and we have new people coming in and other people going out. It’s open to all, like (as another example) Anime Club, Cosplay Club, and Baufing Club, all the clubs that are going to our planned Boston trip. We advertised it open to all, the only thing we asked was that people come show up to the club, that’s it. It made club attendance go up, and it caused people to join in on the community. Things like that, I think clubs should do, but (others are) not.”
Olsen described what she considered to be an example of a club that shouldn’t have received Student Organization funds. This particular club disappeared after a receiving a significant amount of money. Olsen expressed, “The Robotics Club was a complete and utter failure. They came in, and they were there for a while and they requested so much money, $1840 in all. And where has it gone? It hasn’t benefited anybody. So that’s a decent chunk of money wasted. We’re having that issue, and we’re just trying to figure out where to go, because we’re stuck in the middle. It went from structured, to no structure, to half structured. From last semester to this semester, the Student Senate’s getting bigger but at the same time it’s getting crazy.”
The Beacon then asked what Olsen thought to be the leading cause for running out of funds prematurely, to which she replied:
“No one talks, no one asks for discussions. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh yeah that sounds cool, let’s go with it’; no one brings anything to the table. No one explains anything because no one asks. So it’s like, ‘Sure, sure, sure, let’s go, yeah, approve, approve, approve; throw money their way.’ That’s pretty much what it is, and I want it to change. There is a problem with clubs taking advantage of the super chill environment, and now that we’re getting bigger it needs to stop.”
Finally, we at The Beacon interviewed Faiz Sabean, the newly elected Student Senate Treasurer. Sabean was asked how he planned to reduce the future risk of running out of funds, and this was his reply:
“I definitely feel that the funds should be exhausted by the end of the semester, but not this early when we still have another 12+ more weeks to go. The silver lining to this issue is that it’s a good indicator that our clubs are active and are actively initiating new activities to benefit the student body.”
Sabean further stated:
“There are several ways to reduce the risk of prematurely running out of funds. We can add in new language in the Student Senate Constitution to put a cap to the amount of funds a new club can be approved for, improve the vetting process of fund requests to ensure that funds are appropriated in the best way possible, and make certain that clubs in the future adhere to certain policies (submitting roster, meeting time and place, budget) before being able to request for funds. It’s definitely a fine balance between reinforcing structure on the club level without making it too hard for clubs to get the funds for the activities they are passionate about.”
By Erik Squire