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The BG News
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November 30, 2023

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Confusion continues over SBC

The Student Budget Committee is facing criticism from some student groups over unclear instructions as to how much money they could request for next year. The situation remains a mess of fact and rumor that involves hundreds of thousands of funding dollars.

Many student groups claim that SBC and the Office of Campus Involvement sent mixed messages among handouts and web sites that gave differing rules on funding, a conflict they said was never adequately resolved.

The controversy comes just days after several student groups needed OCI to explain a confusing new system of allocating their funds, and the groups’ new confusion seems to reflect signs of an organizational mess within SBC.

One treasurer, Andrew VanAdda of Hillel, said yesterday’s controversy lead to a “general consensus [among groups] that this was a problem.”

The budgets still need to be officially approved by the Board of Trustees.

At the center of the debate are the College Democrats, who said they were asked to cap their funding increases at three percent.

But OCI and SBC officials say the rule wasn’t in place this year. The three percent cap was only a recommendation as to how much to request, and was allegedly not followed by all groups.

College Democrats said they tried to follow the rule in their request of around $4,300. SBC granted them $2,312, a loss of $235 from last year.

“I tried to be respectful and stay within something that’s feasible and something that was necessary for an organization of our size,” said Amanda Belcher, the College Democrat’s treasurer.

Belcher, like other treasurers, said she requested more than a three percent increase, but wasn’t expecting to get the full amount.

Meanwhile, the College Republicans, and others, chose to ask for what they thought they would need, not worrying about the three-percent-limit, said Gina Tortorella, the group’s treasurer.

She said they requested around $22,000 for next year. The College Republicans ended up with $14,550 – a $6,050 gain from last year.

“We weren’t expecting to get $22,000, obviously,” Tortorella said. “It’s not necessarily that we’re asking for that much, that’s just how much it’s going to cost.”

Both groups expect to fundraise to help make up the difference.

Jim Wasil, the College Republican’s president, said the group usually gets around 25 members a meeting. Maria Khoury, his Democratic counterpart, placed her organization’s regulars at around 40.

Student groups are calling attention to the wording in some documents given to treasurers earlier this semester. Those papers said they were allowed to request only three percent more in funding than what their group received the last year.

But Clint Stephens, the interim coordinator of student organizations, said he took steps to clear up any confusion, including e-mails sent after winter break to student leaders and their advisers. The e-mails prompted groups to check the OCI Web site for finalized rules.

Hillel’s treasurer, VanAdda, said yesterday that he never received the e-mails. Many others have said they had.

Hillel’s allocation jumped from $563 to $1,324 next year, a 235 percent increase.

While specific areas of funding – such as money for trips to conferences – remain limited, this year’s new guidelines had no limitations on annual allocation.

Still, several student group leaders said they were still told by SBC to not request more than the three percent. Many also said it had never been made clear that there was a difference in content between the hard copies and Web site.

Diana Delbalso, the treasurer for VISION, said she went specifically by the documents she had received at the meetings. Had she known the rule didn’t exist, she would have asked for more money, she said.

VISION’s funding dropped over 70 percent from last year, to $3,805.

VanAdda put some blame for the confusion on the reduced time groups had to prepare their budgets compared to last year. Budgets this year were due on Jan. 20, as opposed to March 20 in 2005.

He said he made Hillel’s budget under the assumption that the three percent rule was in place.

“It’s only assumed that the guidelines that you’re handed are going to be the same as [what’s] online,” Belcher said.

Both of SBC’s co-chairs — Nicky Damania, a graduate student, and junior Kristen Kulbis — said at times they offered the three percent only as a “guideline,” but the rules on the Web site were the final say.

But they also seemed to contradict themselves more than once during an interview yesterday with The BG News, saying groups were limited by the three percent.

“At their treasurer’s meetings and at their consultations, they were always asked not to ask for more than three percent,” Damania said.

Damania later denied making the comment.

Groups were free to request as much as they wanted, Kulbis and Damania said, but any request over three percent of last year’s funds would be looked at with a much greater scrutiny.

Still, Damania said the groups’ cover letters and budget presentations was crucial in making decisions.

“If they have everything checked to the nickel, we don’t sit there with a calculator and say ‘OK, this group gets this much,'” Damania said.

Damania remembered the College Republican’s presentation as being “stronger” than the Democrats’.

Regardless, Democrats Belcher and Khoury said they would have requested more if they had known the limits weren’t officially in place.

But with the limits, “I would never even fathom requesting anything even close to what the College Republicans have requested,” Belcher said.

Wasil said yesterday that if he had thought the three percent rule was in place, he could understand why Khoury and Belcher were upset.

But he added that bringing in figures like David Horowitz last year helped contribute to the $12,000 they got for speakers next year. If Democrats wanted similar money for a big-name appearance next year, they were welcome to do so, he said.

“If they did that, I’m sure they’d probably get a fair share of money themselves as well,” he said.

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