October 15, 2018

Student organizations’ budgets cut by 51 percent

Student Government Association President Katie Maxwell explained the cuts to student organizations to those in attendance at the spring setting of the Delegates’ Agenda.

Student Government Association President Katie Maxwell explained the cuts to student organizations to those in attendance at the spring setting of the Delegates’ Agenda.

Video Game Club President Michael Henry and Treasurer Evan Luberda greeted a room full of club members by announcing a long list of activities the club will no longer be able to afford. Projected on the room’s wall was a list of activities for around 20 student gamers. Luberda explained in short, “we’re broke.”

Webster University Student Government Association (SGA) cut all student organization’s budgets by 51 percent.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, SGA unanimously voted to approve the spring semester budget, which called for the cuts.

Luberda said Video Game Club will not be able to meet the requirements of its constitution with the current budget. He said some of the main attractions like video game rental, free food and events will not be as easy to offer students. At this point, the cuts have put a halt to many of the club’s future plans, he said.

SGA President Katie Maxwell said the deduction came as a result of SGA’s lack of funds. The university grants SGA the same amount of money every year to allocate to student organizations. The last time SGA received an increase in funds was 2004. Maxwell said the number of student organizations has grown since 2004. As a result, SGA does not have enough money to grant clubs as much money this semester.

“It’s always been the same amount. It hasn’t fluctuated in a great deal of time, based on enrollment, inflation, tuition adjustment, anything of that sort,” Maxwell said.

SGA Sergeant-at-Arms Chris Hawk and President of Humans vs. Zombies said the cuts were a necessary step. He suggested the allocation be raised at the setting of the Delegates’ Agenda on Friday, Feb. 7.

“Good news: our campus activity life is growing and growing and growing. Bad news: right now we’re at an unsustainable amount of growth for the amount of money that we have,” Hawk said.

Luberda said SGA should have decided the amount of the budget cut on a club-by-club basis. He said while a blanket cut is fair, there needed to be more research into what clubs were actually using their allocated funds for.

“I think it could have been really useful to look into clubs, see who has the most members, see why we’re requesting this money and what we’ve done this last semester, see who has and hasn’t met their budget,” Luberda said.

Hawk said he felt an SGA-wide cut was the only fair way of dispersing funds this semester.

“This was a best case scenario to make sure that everyone at least got something,” Hawk said. “The only way you can cut things fairly is if you cut things across the board.”

Director of Student Activities Jennifer Stewart said the money allocated to SGA from the university has remained roughly the same since 2004. The money is split up between the programming pool, student grant fund and the readership program. The rest of the funds are divided between student organizations. The deductions only affect the student organization budget line.

For Co-President of Surfacing Dan Fenton, the deductions were a surprise. He said he expected budget cuts, but not such a deep deduction.

The Surfacing Theatre student group on campus typically spends $1000 on its One Act Festival each semester. After student organization budget cuts, the club will now have $500 to work with.
“I think it put a little hindrance in a lot of things,” Fenton said. “I’m not a big fan of it but I understand why it had to be done.”

While SGA expected deductions, Stewart said it was difficult to pin-point when they would be made.

“Although it is a tough situation and clubs weren’t expecting that it was going to happen, I think this will be a good opportunity for clubs to take a good look at their budgets and what they’ve been spending money on, and see what’s really critical to the operations of their clubs,” Stewart said.

Video Game Club has saved up money over the past few years. Luberda said without the emergency fund, the club would not be able to continue meeting the criteria of its constitution or hold any events this semester.

At the end of each academic year, unspent student organization funds rollover to the next year in a “bubble.” Stewart said the bubble, over time, was spent down to a point where this semester it no longer exists.

“This year we’re at a point where there is no bubble. We’re working with the real numbers,” Stewart said.
Maxwell said SGA would do everything in its power to alleviate concerns and lessen the impact of the deductions.

SGA has set plans in motion to acquire further funding for the allocation fund from the administration. At the spring setting of the Delegates’ Agenda, raising the SGA’s allocated funds received the most votes. Maxwell said she is confident the administration will do what is necessary to aid student organizations.

Stewart said she hopes Delegates’ Agenda presenters will be able to come up with creative solutions to SGA’s budget issues.

“Regardless of what the administration says, it will give us some ideas of what the student organizations are really wanting and how we can utilize that,” Stewart said. “In the future it might require some changes to the SGA budget bylaws about certain ways student organizations can or can’t spend their money and ways money is allocated.”

Luberda said he hopes SGA will revisit the topic of deductions in the near future.
“I’m hoping that something can be done within the next couple of SGA meetings that allows this to be revisited,” Luberda said. “If we can fix the core of the problem, I think it will be a domino effect and everything else will fall into place.”

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