Scrutinizing CSO access to funds

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Scrutinizing CSO access to funds

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Funding is the lifeblood of Chartered Student Organizations, and as SLU is facing concerns with budget cuts, questions begin to rise on what will happen to the CSOs’ money.  A new funding directive was passed by the Student Government Association (SGA) on Wednesday, Feb. 10 that will guide the way by which SGA distributes funds and polices their use by CSOs.

Money comes into CSOs from activities fees paid by all students: $55 for undergraduates and $30 for graduate students.  From that income, 15% will go into a general fund, the Student Activities Fund.  These fees are defined in the directive as having being for “the betterment of the Saint Louis University student body,” and as such, SGA is obligated to base funding on the reach of a CSOs planned event or activity and be biased against any events/activities that do not “directly contribute to the day-to-day life of the average SLU student…”

The money received from the activities fee is then distributed to CSOs after they submit financial plans for the semester.  This includes any events or activities that they are planning.  These plans are brought to the Finance Committee, headed by Vice President of Finance Ronald Clark, and then debated by the Senate.  The committee and the Senate are obligated to hold the reach of an event and its capability to better student life as highly influential when making their decisions.

However, some costs for a CSO may be unknowable or unaccounted for and more money will then be required for the event/activity to be financed (due to increased travel costs from a conference being moved to further away or an item increasing in price, for example).  In such a case, CSOs can apply for spot funding.

Spot funding, as explained by Senator Ismar Sehovic, comes from the money left over from the CSOs finance approvals.  The money available for spot funding was approximately $90,000.  CSOs must go in front of the Senate and plead their case for the increased funds.

During a discussion on spot funding last week, SGA Senator Ben O’Donell said (in regards to funding an initiative from the Wellness Committee during midterms and finals), “[W]e don’t use up all of our budget anyway…” and that money being used for the Wellness Committee would not roll over into the next year.

The Wellness Committee, according to Sehovic, is financed separately from the rest of CSOs and is headed by members of SGA, including President Jay Bryant.  It has a larger budget than what is available for spot funding and is the entity behind many activities happening around SLU in an effort to improve the health of students’ bodies, minds and spirits.

Although funding is available for CSOs through SGA, limitations must be established to ensure money will remain in the budget.

In response to many CSOs asking for increased funds or spot funding, SGA has recommended finding sponsors to aid in financing events.  Senators advised one CSO, the SLU Rocketry Club, when it was asking for increased funding to cover unaccounted costs, to look for outside organizations as well as entities within departments for extra funding.

In the opinion of one senator who wishes to remain unnamed, the requests by senators for a CSO to find an outside sponsor are unrealistic.  It is asked because senators are under pressure to look for alternative funding measures than dipping into the Student Activities Fund.

Funding was described by Clark, the writer of the funding directive, as not being “an entitlement” and will be bestowed or withdrawn from an organization based on how that organization operates and contributes to the “overall student experience.”

Senators discussed the possible penalties that CSOs would incur for not following the guidelines for funding requests or inappropriately using money and various violations that can be committed by CSOs.

Violations will likely result in a reduction of funds towards the guilty CSO or even the freezing of its funds.

Financial concerns abound throughout SLU as enrollment declines.  Many sports teams have felt the sting of budget cuts, and CSOs can attest to the stricter guidelines by which they are granted funding.  Hopefully, the new directives put forward by SGA will ensure that plenty of funds will be directed to continuing the diverse CSOs present on campus.