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Student Senate works to make SAC funding process easier

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Ohio University Student Senate hopes to overcome its sometimes intimidating reputation by improving relations with students, including rebranding its Senate Appropriations Committee, the group charged with distributing funds to student organizations.

Until recently, the process that student organizations had to go through to receive money from Student Senate was complicated and in many ways inefficient, an issue that was finally brought when Senators noticed a decrease in funding applications, which resulted in thousands of university dollars going unused.

SAC will begin reforming the allocations process this year to encourage organizations to apply in hopes to resolve the unused funds problem.

Austin LaForest, Student Senate Treasurer, explained that instead of the current process that requires groups to continuously reapply for money throughout the school year and go through a rigorous screening process, Student Senate will allow all groups to apply for the money they want at the end of the school year, to be used for the entire next school year, streamlining the process and making it less tedious.

“(The current system) hurts organizations, because it’s overly complicated, they can’t get funded, and it pushes them away,” LaForest said.

Three large student organizations, the University Program Council, the Black Student Cultural Programming Board and the International Student Union receive 60 percent of their annual funds through SAC. That still leaves around 400 student organizations of all sizes that possibly need money that are not applying for funding.

LaForest explained that funding rules require group events to be applicable to all students, which often makes it difficult for smaller organizations to be granted money.

During the switch to semesters, LaForest and former Senate Treasurer Evan Ecos noticed that a large chunk of the approximately $400,000 of senate appropriations money was going unused. This year, Senate has been allocated $405,000 to serve the same purpose.

LaForest hopes his and his fellow senators’ ideas for reform will assure that all the money is put to good use while pleasing the organizations that use it, explaining that the anxiety of the current system has put organizations in rough waters.

“They’d be in panic mode, try to fundraise or find money elsewhere,” LaForest said. “Things like that can be eliminated if the rules are simplified, straight forward, less strict. We just want to keep student organizations accountable because it is student money.”

In addition to the rule about applicability to the entire student body, organizations requesting funding for events must attend a workshop to learn how to apply, fill out the application properly with an advisor’s signature, a detailed account of the organization’s budget as well as a one-on-one interview.

Senate has rolled out a tentative timetable for reforming the SAC funding process. Fall semester, senators plan to get the word out to organizations, building reports with them to explain how the new system will be easier. By the end of the semester, Senate aims to have a clearer set of guidelines on how to apply for funds. By spring semester, LaForest hopes to have the rules formally passed in Senate, and then have the entire new program with a complete budget ready to go for the 2014-2015 school year.

“[Student Senate] has gained a reputation for being intimidating and that’s something we want to change,” LaForest said. “We want to change our image.”

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