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SOFC Works To Increase Budget Transparency

Heights Senior Staff

Published: Sunday, January 29, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

Anyone could tell you money doesn't grow on trees, but a member of the Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC) might wish they had a green thumb. The SOFC manages the money received from the student activity fee and allocates the funds to student organizations to cover their costs. The SOFC does not, however, allocate funds for every request from student organizations, and the leaders of these groups are left wondering why. In an effort to answer students' questions, specifically those involved in student organizations, the SOFC continues its campaign to increase transparency and build relations within the community.

Comprised of 20 student members, the SOFC meets weekly to discuss budgets and appeals for funding submitted by student organizations. The committee reviews the budget for each organization line by line and then develops several proposals for each one before selecting a proposal by vote. "Not everyone on the committee is going to agree, so we sometimes have two to four proposals," said Andrew Breger, chair of SOFC and CSOM '13. "Then we'll end up with two proposed budgets after several rounds of voting, and whichever one has the majority share at the end will be the winning proposal."

While the process sounds simple in theory, the situation becomes complicated when looking at the numbers. Last semester, student organizations asked for over $1 million in funding, but the SOFC had only $240,000 to distribute in funding. "That just kind of shows you the challenge that is there," said Hannah Trost, graduate assistant for the Student Programs Office (SPO) and LGSOE '13. "I'm not sure everyone knows how little the SOFC has to work with. It's still a decent amount of money, obviously, but compared to what they're being asked, it's a big challenge."

"The goal of SOFC is to add value to campus," Breger said. "We will fund events until we are out of money, essentially, as long as these events are adding value to campus. When we run out of money, we'll have to have a tough conversation with clubs."

In order to keep working relationships strong, Breger and the other members of the SOFC continue to use a representative system developed by last year's chair and vice chair, Jeff White and Anthony Giannobile, both CSOM '12. This system assigns each member of the SOFC several student organizations to oversee, offering them both a voice at SOFC meetings and support at their events.

"It's gone wonderfully well," said Karl Bell, assistant director of SPO and faculty adviser of the SOFC. "The club rep has an insider's view to the organization, so they will be able to represent that organization when their budgets are presented. Club leaders have had conversations with the representative, and are able to explain, ‘This is what this means, this is why this is being proposed.'"

The reaction from student organizations regarding the representative system has been positive. "As an organization, it helps put a face to the SOFC, and it makes it better for a representative to advocate why such events are important to a specific RSO and why it's important to our membership and the greater mission of the club at BC," said Aaron Parayno, president of the Philippine Society of Boston College and A&S '12.

Along with the representative program, the SOFC aims to increase its online presence through the MyBC website. The SOFC currently maintains a website that houses its budget guidelines and executive board contact information, but the committee looks to merge its website with MyBC. This past year marked new use of MyBC as a way for SOFC to collect primary budgets and appeals from student organizations.

"Before, clubs had to use Excel, and there were a lot of problems with that," Breger said. "Some people don't know how to use Excel, so there's a lot of issues with the numbers not calculating and not matching up. With MyBC, all the budgeting is done online. It's very simple, very clean, and it's a lot easier for us and clubs."

The new OrgSync system further attempts to strengthen the communication between the SOFC and the clubs. "Once we go through the budgets and develop our rationale at the Friday meetings, all we have to do is press send, and it's sent immediately to the clubs," Breger said.

The SOFC hopes to make its work known not only to student organizations but the student body as a whole. Because every student pays $298 per semester to the student activity fund, the committee looks to publically disclose how it chooses to allocate its funds. "They're currently working on a process to put actual numbers out there. We're finishing up numbers from last semester right now," Trost said.

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