Written By Ian Ezinga
The Undergraduate Student Government Club Funding Council has a new set of rules that will make it easier to deny student clubs’ funding requests. The council passed the four new rules on Thursday, February 13, and they are designed to allocate funding for student clubs more appropriately.
“We just want to make sure the funds we give out are going to benefit the student body at large rather than benefiting only a couple of club members or e-board members,” said Stephanie Ortega, treasurer of the Undergraduate Student Government, and head of the Funding Council.
These changes were brought about through a culmination of occurrences which the council saw as inefficient at the least, and in some cases, inappropriate. This poor allocation of funding takes the form of leftover food, merchandise for just a few club members, and thousands of dollars spent each semester on events that are poorly attended. This funding comes from a finite amount determined each semester and is sometimes at risk of running out before the semester is finished.
“The system we have right now is very inefficient. It is not transparent enough,” said Nadav Raz, who is a member of the Funding Council and was in favor of all the rule changes. Raz also proposed a fifth rule change which would require clubs to avoid using single-use plastic. While the other four passed unanimously, this last one was voted down out of fear of being too large of an inconvenience.
Raz spoke with the Vanguard last semester about a $1,250 grant that was approved for Turning Point USA, a conservative organization on campus. The money was requested to help pay conservative pundit and singer Joy Villa’s speaking fee in a planned visit to campus in December 2019. Her talk was cancelled last minute because there was not a big enough perspective turnout. While the money was returned, this incident was nearly a case of a significant allocation of club funding being put towards a poorly attended event.
“The reason we passed the proposals is so we could hold the clubs more accountable because they are given money from everyone’s tuition,” continued Raz. His concern is largely representative of an opinion which demands that more attention is paid to how student’s money is best used.
Ortega, while concerned about allocating funds more fairly, put more emphasis on the limited amount of funding available and how quickly it can be spent. “These rules were put into place because the amount of money we have for grants is limited and we can’t approve all grants,“ she said after the February 25th meeting, which was the first to have these rules in effect.
Whether these rules effectively hold clubs more accountable or are more simply designed to conserve the limited amount of funding available, they will affect how student clubs will receive their future funding.
Two of the four rules are directly aimed at clubs receiving large amounts of money for poorly attended events. The first of these requires clubs to provide accurate attendance records of past events in order to receive a grant for an upcoming event. In conjunction with this, clubs must provide evidence of an attempt at marketing the event to all of, or as much of the Brooklyn College student body as possible.
Designed to cut down on waste, these two rules will reign in spending on more mature clubs which may be frequently spending more than they need to on events. An exception is in place for new clubs who have yet to host any events and cannot provide the required sign-in rosters. With a continual flood of new clubs, this exception is important but puts the burden of allocation more on instinct than on rigorous funding regulations.
The other two rules work to cut down on club spending. One of the new rules puts a cap on how much a club can receive for items which only benefit specific club members such as the e-board. Whether it is excessive spending on custom hoodies or thousands of dollars on medical instruments which only sees the hands of a few students, this rule hopes to curb spending which doesn’t attempt to help the student body at large.
The fourth rule should not be much of a concern for smaller or newer clubs, but hopes to create a more regimented process for allocating grants in addition to a club’s semesterly budget. The rule requires that clubs exhaust their initial budget before being able to request a grant from the Funding Council. This change will allow for a more straightforward allocation approach that does not leave too much room for clubs to receive excess funding.
Ortega’s concerns about running out of money and Raz’s enthusiasm about creating more transparency can create a more equitable funding allocation system. While these rules are now in effect, it may take some more time and further regulating to create a completely fair and efficient club funding policy.