SOFC Alone Should Field RSO Funding Requests
Portion Of NOTH's Budget Should Be Reallocated To SOFC, Allowing For More RSO-Driven Programming
Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 23:10
Controversy has emerged recently over the funding process for retreats for culture clubs and other Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). In the past, such groups have been able to appeal to both the Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC) and the Student Assembly (SA) for funds, despite the fact that this process was technically not allowed under existing Student Programs Office (SPO) funding guidelines. The controversy that has come about is the result of a decision by SPO to begin enforcing this policy, no longer permitting these organizations to “double-dip” from the Student Activities Fee (SAF), which provides funding for both SOFC and SA.
Currently, the controversy has been mediated by a stopgap measure which allows an RSO to appeal to the SA for funding in excess of the $50 per person for up to 50 people—$2,500 in total—that they are allocated from SOFC under the current guidelines, if that RSO has more than 50 people attending a retreat.
This stopgap measure is a good temporary solution for a problem that arose as a surprise, but it does not make sense to continue the practice in the long run. It is unreasonable and inefficient for a single event—in this case, a retreat—to be funded by two different organizations that draw funds from the same source. In addition, why should requests for additional funds be cut off arbitrarily at 50 people? Decisions regarding funding for retreats should take into consideration the total cost of attending the retreat, the number of people interested, and the amount given to other, similar retreats.
To streamline the process of funding retreats, and indeed all monetary requests made by RSOs, funding for these organizations should come solely from SOFC. The portion of the SA budget that currently provides funding for RSOs should be redistributed to SOFC in next year’s budget, in order to provide the maximum amount of money to student groups as efficiently as possible.
There are several reasons for this. First, SOFC is an independent body, whose members are bound by a strict set of guidelines and specific conflict of interest regulations. They are non-biased and are not permitted to be leaders in RSOs that request funding, and they do an excellent job each year of allocating the portion of the SAF for which they are responsible fairly and appropriately. They already deal with a significant portion—over $500,000—of the SAF, managing requests made by BC’s numerous RSOs, working within guidelines designed to ensure the fairest possible distribution.
As of this academic year, several members of the SA are representatives of culture clubs, which poses a significant conflict of interest for funding requests from those groups. Clearly, members of a certain organization should not be voting on funding requests for their particular organization. Culture club representatives can weigh in via the mandatory documentation that is required for each SOFC funding request, but having them vote on decisions regarding funding requests in the SA borders on unethical.
Giving the money that the SA currently uses to fund requests to SOFC will allow a single body to provide funding for all requests, streamlining a process that has clearly been confusing in the past. If this change were made, RSOs would be able to go to a single organization to fund their retreats, and that organization would fund requests from all RSOs fairly and equitably.
This change would not affect the funding given to divisions in UGBC’s executive branch like Student Initiatives or Diversity and Inclusion. These divisions put on meaningful programs throughout the year, and obviously need funding to host these programs. The money given to SOFC would include only the discretionary fund that the SA has traditionally used for funding requests from RSOs.
Part of the reason that the funding of retreats has caused such a controversy is simply because these retreats are so popular. They provide a meaningful time of reflection and bonding for the students who are able to attend them. It is very important that these trips are funded, in order to permit all interested students to attend, regardless of their economic situations. Despite their greatest efforts to mitigate costs, many culture clubs host retreats that require students to pay as much as $60 to attend, even after maximum funding.
Along with reallocating the funds from the SA to SOFC, in the future, the administration should consider appropriating additional funds for SOFC, and thus, for all RSOs, from Nights on the Heights (NOTH). For several years, this paper has argued against the exorbitant funding NOTH receives for events that are generally not attended as well as events hosted by RSOs or by UGBC. Allocating some of NOTH’s more than $500,000 to individual RSOs will better allow student leadership to develop programming organically, specifically engaging students interested in particular issues. Money for RSOs is not unlimited, and SOFC’s operating guidelines will obviously continue to apply in the future. But by reallocating the money that students provide through the activities fee, the administration, UGBC, and SOFC can work together to allow for more effective and formative programming on campus.