With more than 200 registered student organizations (RSOs) on campus, funding clubs is no small task. The responsibility of allocating that funding, though, is the responsibility of a comparatively small group—the roughly 20 undergraduates that comprise the Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC).
A funding entity for all student organizations, excluding UGBC and BC club sports, SOFC approves, denies, and distributes funds received from an annually budgeted sum from the Vice President of Student Affairs Office (VPSA). The amount of that sum is just one portion the Student Activity Fee (SAF) budget—a total of the bi-yearly payments that undergraduates make to the University that reserve them the right to join RSOs.
In an attempt to more precisely and fairly distribute funds among RSOs, SOFC will transition to a newer method of operations, according to SOFC voting member Jackson Bowers, CSOM ’17.
Under its current structure, SOFC functions under a set of guidelines put forth by the organization’s members and approved annually by the Office of Student Involvement (OSI). The guidelines for an RSO to submit its primary budget—the original funding proposal offered by a club—are detailed in a five-page document found on the SOFC website, which currently mandates that RSOs submit budget requests four weeks in advance of a proposed event.
Next year, Bowers said, SOFC will aim to have all club budgets submitted by the beginning of the semester instead of the current “four-week” policy.
“We want all clubs to plan their events ahead of time before the semester even starts so that we can budget and know what’s coming throughout the semester, and do as much funding as we can before the semester even starts,” he said.
The reasoning for the funding cycle shift is a result of a greater push for operational transparency, Bowers said, noting that perceptions surrounding the funding body are typically unfavorable, particularly from RSOs that may have been denied requested funds.
“I think we have, generally, a negative perception on campus because people think we’re the bad guys who don’t fund events, when in reality we’re trying going forward to make every effort to fund things and to find reasons to give clubs money,” he said.
The source of those perceptions, he stated, often results from an unclear submission process—one that SOFC hopes to enhance from a campus visibility standpoint.
“Most people don’t know that much about [SOFC],” Bowers said. “In the old days, you couldn’t really find a copy of our guidelines on the website, so clubs didn’t really know what we would fund and what we wouldn’t.”
Now, any student is able to attend SOFC’s weekly meetings held on Fridays from 3 to 5 p.m. in Carney Hall, and subsequent office hour sessions from 7 to 9 p.m., according to the SOFC webpage.
The meetings focus on two predominant areas of allocation: budget submissions and appeals. Budget submissions, which typically occur closer to the beginning of the semester, serve as a mechanism for clubs’ costs coverage and general approval of events. Appeal meetings are held for RSOs that may have been denied funding for specific requests, and are seeking to reverse an SOFC’s decision. Appeals occur throughout the funding cycle and operate over the calendar year.
Last Friday marked the last meeting open to discussion for funding new events this semester, but meetings for appeals will continue throughout the rest of the year.
While RSOs may potentially face a more hurried time table for event planning, the transition to a newer model for budget consideration will likely allow SOFC to immediately process primary proposals for RSOs, keep SAF costs down, and leave the bulk of future SOFC meetings to focus on appeals, Bowers said.
“It’s obviously hard for clubs to do that because a lot of their event details are even finalized that early before the event,” he said. “So, we kind of have to balance the funding ahead of time with [clubs] needing flexibility as well.”
SOFC membership is structured on a collection of voting members and an executive board, including chair Earnestiena Cheng, CSOM ’15; vice chair Siobhan Burke, CSOM ’16; and treasurer Nicholas Wisniewski, CSOM ’15. The rest are voting members—those who assess and vote either in favor of or against budget submissions. For approval, budget requests must receive approval from the majority of members. A formal voting process occurs only once quorum within the group is reached.
Each member of SOFC is also responsible to serve as a “representative” for about nine to 14 RSOs—a role that Bowers said ensures a close and clear working relationship with RSO treasurers.
“Our role as clubs reps is to be, ideally, in constant contact with the [club] treasurers to know about upcoming events, upcoming budgets … that way the process can be as fluid as possible,” he said.
The breakdown of which representative each club is assigned to is available to the public via SOFC’s OrgSync webpage.
For SOFC members already involved in a club whose budget is up for approval, that member must abstain from voting to mitigate a financial conflict of interest. That member is, however, encouraged by SOFC guidelines to serve as the representative for that club—a dynamic Bowers said expedites voting.
“Those kinds of relationships actually usually work in our favor,” he said.
Members are not allowed, however, to be a part of UGBC, since funding from the SAF also finances UGBC’s annual budget.
Since the 2004-05 academic year, the SAF has nearly tripled, from $106 to now $316 in 2013-14. That figure almost climbed unpredictably further after BC’s Event Management (EM) department proposed a 20 percent increase in charges for RSOs in the form of an EM surcharge this year. That decision was reversed following lobbying against the decision by UGBC, however.
Featured Image by Daniel Lee / Heights Senior Staff