The Student Government (SG) Assembly, comprised of the College Council (CC) and Graduate Council, will debate and vote on a set of recommendations Thursday that would restructure the Student Government Funding Committee (SGFC).
The recommendations suggest, among other things, that two RSO leaders should hold seats on the committee yearround, that RSOs should fill out forms to give the committee feedback about the usefulness of the funding, and that the SGFC give seed money to RSOs looking to gain more financial independence through fundraising.
The plan was created by the Commission on Improving RSO Funding, an SG committee headed by SG Vice President for Administration and second-year Julian Quintanilla, who is also a candidate for SG president.
“What we wanted to do was put mechanisms in place so that the [various funding] committees could continuously monitor RSO needs so that they could reshape themselves for what RSOs needed. That’s what is at the heart of these recommendations: opening up communication and figuring out what the RSO need is,” Quintanilla said.
The Commission’s primary recommendation is that two RSO leaders should be appointed to hold seats on the SGFC, which would be made by SG’s executive slate in consultation with the University’s student activities office. “By having RSO leaders in the room, with a vote, you have people who know what it takes, so to speak, [to run an RSO]. SG and SGFC, because of its time commitment, even though it shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, it frequently is,” Quintanilla said.
The Commission also recommended that a follow-up form for events funded by SGFC be filled out by all RSOs; “We thought it was really important to try to gauge follow-up because we get an idea of ‘Did we do a good job funding this,’” Quintanilla said. “If we didn’t fully fund it, could they have done better with more? It’s not to punish RSOs, it’s to see if we’re helping.”
SGFC members will also be asked to attend a certain number of events the committee funds, another attempt to get a sense of what SGFC funding supports.
Third-year CC representative, SGFC member and SG presidential candidate Jarrod Wolf said that “what has been done [is] very admirable, but [the Commission] missed the point about RSO funding.”
“Although they tried to reform the SGFC itself by placing RSO members on the committee, it doesn’t make the process any easier for RSOs to get money,” Wolf said. “All it does is change the people who sit in the room. It’s great to increase transparency, but it won’t be very different than if two other elected officials were in the room. [Quintanilla’s] step to reform SGFC has been probably the first step in reforming the broader issue of RSO funding, [but] the past three months of working on the issue have been in the wrong direction.”
The Commission also recommended that certain RSOs be allowed to apply for seed money that would enable them to fundraise and eventually attain financial independence. The recommendations state that this money could be used “at the RSO’s discretion, provided that the funds are used to benefit students (not given away to an outside organization, for example).”
At a CC meeting last week, fourth-year representative Christina Melander took issue with that recommendation, criticizing it for incentivizing groups to spend money on themselves and dissuading those that seek to improve the community.
“The proposal makes it near impossible for any group to raise money that may benefit the community,” Melander said in an e-mail interview. “While I agree that seed money to help some RSOs become self-sustaining is important, I think restricting the use of raised money (i.e. a net gain from a fundraiser) to students only limits the freedom of association that students should have.”
Quintanilla and Wolf expressed support for the guideline, which they maintained would support the goal of helping RSOs that want to become more financially independent. Other CC representatives debated over the language of the guideline, which will be revised before the final vote.
Wolf said that despite his criticisms, the recommendations did have some effective portions.
“One of the things that would be the right direction would be the after-event form,” Wolf said. “That will help us better understand how the money is being spent and looking at how exactly and what exactly the money is being spent on will allow us to best allocate the money.”
Wolf added that there are other funding bodies, such as the Community Service Fund, that would not be affected by the reforms.
“Most of the problem right now is determining how much money should be spent in each funding silo,” Wolf said.
SG President and fourth-year Matthew Kennedy said he didn’t have any major problems with the current division of funds, though he added that he would rather have more student control of non-SG agencies. Kennedy also voiced support for Quintanilla.
“In general, RSOs should be able to take risks and do innovative things,” Kennedy said. “We should do whatever is possible to make that process as easy as it can be. I think it is currently possible, and we’re trying to make it a little bit easier.”
Quintanilla said that if approved, the recommendations would be in place by the end of the quarter.