Home Campus SAC’ed: How the Senate Appropriations Commission is tackling funding shortages for student organizations

SAC’ed: How the Senate Appropriations Commission is tackling funding shortages for student organizations

18 min read

Student organizations hoping to get funding from the school for their big-ticket programming may be plum out of luck — and may need to look elsewhere for that money they need.

The Senate Appropriations Commission (SAC), the group responsible for allocating money to student organizations who want to host events or programs, has been struggling to provide complete funding for all the groups requesting money for events.

Ohio University has not awarded SAC an increase in funding since 2011; SAC has received $405,409 every year with zero adjustment for inflation or other increases. Inflation, meanwhile, has increased 11.6 percent since 2011.

Zach Whetstone, SAC commissioner, was alarmed by the lack of an adjustment for funds to account for the decreased value of the dollar.

“It’s worth even less now, since we don’t get that increase,” Whetstone said. “By not having an increase, it underrepresents students. I think it’s doing harm because we can’t fully fund events.”

The increasing number of student organizations on campus further exacerbates the problem. The number of registered organizations jumped 165 percent from the 2008-2009 to the 2016-2017 school year, according to documents provided by SAC.

In 2008-2009, there were 293 registered student organizations. In the the 2016-2017 school year, there were 482 student organizations — still less than the peak of 551 organizations during the 2014-2015 school year.

Morgan McCarthy, vice commissioner of SAC Campus Outreach, said as awareness of funding has increased, so has the amount of requests received.

“Every year, more and more people learn about SAC funding,” McCarthy said. “The more and more accessible we make the process for SAC funding, the more and more people apply.”

Whetstone said the increased amount of clubs, coupled with increased awareness of SAC funding, has created a large lack of funding for student organizations.

Typically, for semesterly funding — funding for events planned a semester ahead like speakers and large programs — SAC allocates around $40,000 for the year. Last semester, SAC received around $250,000 in requests, Whetstone said.

“The amount of money that was requested for semesterly funding was far greater than our supply,” he said. “Clearly that is not enough if we are getting ($250,000) in requests.”

Whetstone also cited concerns surrounding the increase in the student body size as another limiting factor in stretching SAC money.

“We have 6,000 more students than 10 years ago, and SAC has yet to see an increase in funding,” Whetstone said.





Losing yards: where the costs are getting cut

While SAC funding remains stagnant and the number of groups requesting funding for programs increases, the students who organize SAC have looked for ways to strip down costs to ensure the most widely accessible programs can continue to receive funding.

Programs that fall under SAC scrutiny are professional development trips, speakers, and events with a big catering budget, Sloat said.

Professional development trips — events where a small number of students travel for conferences, networking, or career development — have especially been the target of cost reduction measures, Whetstone said. The costs for these events add up when travel, lodging, and other expenses are factored in, McCarthy said.

Furthermore, Whetstone said these events benefit a very small number of people compared to an event on campus, which are more widely accessible .

“We’ve had to shift our focus to funding events on campus because it is more likely to affect the most amount of people, whereas in the past, SAC was a great place for people to come and get funding to go on professional development trips,” Whetstone said.

Student Senate President Maddie Sloat said SAC and Student Senate are looking for other pockets of money to help fund professional development skills.

Specifically, she said they are hoping to appropriate funding from the newly established Career and Experiential Learning Fee, a fee tacked on to tuition to help students develop professional skills.

For a full-time student, the fee is $72 per semester, according to Office of the Bursar. The fee goes to the Career and Leadership Development Center (CLDC), which offers a variety of services and support for students hoping to develop career skills.

Sloat wants to use the CLDC fee to also extend to professional development trips. Unfortunately, Sloat was told that because the fee is relatively new, this plan is unlikely to be implemented in the immediate future

“Essentially, what we’re trying to argue right now is that a portion of that money should go to student programming,” Sloat said.

Sloat also cited speakers as an area of outstanding cost which SAC is looking to cut expenses on. She said it is difficult to justify the expenses for a speaker, when many more programs could be put on for the same cost.

“Speakers are a huge cost, and a lot of speaker fees are really expensive to a degree where we are not able to bring really cool speakers who we could be bringing to campus,” Sloat said.

Speaker fees typically range from $4,000 to $6,000, Lydia Ramlo, Student Senate treasurer, said. Sloat said SAC is typically able to offer $1,000 to $2,000 to cover the cost of a speaker.

Moss Nash, secretary on Cutler Council, the governing body for the Cutler Scholars program, wanted to bring transgender activist and speaker Alok Vaid Menon to Ohio U. In spring 2018, he applied for $8,000 of semesterly funding to pay for the speaker. There is no cap on money requested for semesterly funding.

Nash said another person in his organization had also applied for semesterly funding, and therefore his request was rejected because SAC was confused by the joint application. SAC policy dictates that all requests for semesterly funding be filed under one form.

He discovered that the application had been rejected in the summer of 2018. Nash addressed Student Senate to raise concerns with the process and the rejection of their funding request.

He said Student Senate told him  to reapply for funding under bi-weekly funding— funding for short term programming with a cap of $1,500 — for the full amount of $8,000. Nash said he was rejected yet again, despite assurances from Student Senate that the issue would be resolved.

“They were just wasting my time, my advisor’s time, and even their own SAC members time because they had to talk to us and everything just to reject us for a preventable reason,” Nash said.

Nash applied again for semesterly funding in the fall for the Spring 2019 semester. This time, Nash asked for less, only requesting $6,000 after negotiating with the speaker for a lower cost.

SAC ultimately offered Nash and the Cutler Council around $1,300 to fund the speaker. Nash said members of SAC explained that they were low on money that semester. He said he understood, but believes that if it had been accepted the first time he applied, he would have received more funding.

“I was also very frustrated because I had continually come up with obstacles from SAC that were very preventable,” Nash said. “I just didn’t understand why nobody else seemed to be having these problems.”


Another area where SAC looks to cut costs is food spending. If a group wants funding for food, it needs to be for a large banquet or other similar event, Ramlo said.

“If it’s a closed meeting, and you just want pizza for your meeting, it’s a no go,” Ramlo said. “We’re trying to reach out to the whole student population, not one particular org.”

Allee Amstutz is the president of Art Ambassadors, a program to fund art events that typically go unfunded. She and her group were trying to get around $4,000 for a food and art symposium.

After SAC helped her fill out her itemized list for biweekly funding, she said she could not submit her application due to a system error with the online site. After email correspondence with SAC members, she met with members who helped her submit the application.

Amstutz said Art Ambassadors ultimately received $2,293 of the $4,000 requested from SAC, paying out a percentage of each item requested on the list. SAC paid for none of their food, Amstutz said.

“They did not fund a single morsel of food,” Amstutz said. “The food was the event. We were taken aback when we didn’t receive a penny for food.”

Amstutz spoke with SAC members after she discovered Art Ambassadors received no funding for food to to try and find a solution.

“None of us were mad; it was not a hostile thing,” she said. “They were very nice and understanding.”

Ultimately, Art Ambassadors paired with another group that was holding an event at the same time and ended up receiving food for their symposium, Amstutz said.

“It was just a confusing, long process,” Amstutz said. “We definitely weren’t prepared to not get a single dollar for food.”

Sloat points to Ohio U’s ongoing budget problems as a part of the issue.

Deb Shaffer, vice president for Finance and Administration, addressed Student Senate in February to discuss the persistent financial problems Ohio U is facing — decreasing enrollments coupled with increased cost of labor.

Sloat and other Student Senate executives regularly meet with university administrators but have expressed frustration at the lack of a formal process to request a funding increase.

Sloat said many of the university administrators are sympathetic to their cause but do not have the agency to assist them.

“It’s really difficult to figure out ways to ask for money,” Sloat said. “(Administrators) are like, ‘we’d love to help, but we just don’t know how to help.’”

Whetstone said he does not see an increase in funding as probable.

“As much as I think students deserve the raise, and as much as I’d love to continue petitioning, it’s as simple as the money’s not there,” he said.


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