Opinion

New funding codes will increase equity, transparency

By Max Schnidman ’14

November 14, 2013

This semester, Student Assembly exhausted the majority of its budget well before Fall Break. Additionally, a majority of its annual budget is placed in holds for different groups, including HAVOC, ASB and Club Sports. These issues stem from systemic flaws in the current, vague funding codes, which use only a first-come, first-serve system to allocate funds. This unsustainable situation has to change, and the new funding codes have been designed to allow Student Assembly to sustainably exhaust the fund.

The most fundamental change is in how Student Assembly evaluates funding proposals. Previously, funding was allocated purely on a first-come, first-serve basis. No opportunity existed to weigh proposals outside of ensuring that they were made properly. Under the new codes, Student Assembly will analyze proposals based on their costs and benefits. The two goals of the analysis will be equity and excellence: ensuring that as many organizations as possible can use funds in the best possible way. To achieve equity and excellence, the new funding codes have four key policy changes: implementing cost-benefit analyses, encouraging strategic budgets, clarifying the rules considering endowments and increasing transparency.

The cost-benefit analysis is central to achieving this goal, and the codes set standards for this analysis. In making funding proposals, student organizations will be asked to provide a cost-per-student (CPS) value, that is, how much they are spending on each student. This will help organizations keep cost-effectiveness in mind. Additionally, if their CPS exceeds the previous year’s median CPS (currently $50), then those organizations will need to explain their budget to the Assembly in further detail, either in person or in writing. Passing this threshold, however, is neither a mandate nor a veto of the proposal. Additionally, to help smooth out the allocation of funds throughout the semester, budgets whose cost exceeds 5 percent of the Assembly’s funds require the same kind of explanation described above.

Strategic planning will help Student Assembly know in advance what programming organizations are planning, thus giving organizations the time to make their activities as successful as possible. To that end, the new codes offer three kinds of strategic budgets: one for the academic year, one for a full semester and one for a half-semester. These budgets allow organizations to take an average CPS over their programming, making it easier to devise such a budget, while still allowing them to apply for additional funding for new events during their budget timeframe. It also gives organization leaders peace of mind, knowing that they have the necessary funds for their events well in advance. Additionally, many of the current holds will be folded into strategic budgets. Only consistent annual events not run by a student organization will remain as holds (e.g. Movie Channel, Class & Charter Day).

The current, unwritten policy toward endowed organizations is that they should look to their endowments first for funding. The new codes simply enforce that by asking organizations to disclose how their endowments are being used for programming when they apply for Student Assembly funding. Once they have done so, they will receive the same treatment as other organizations with funding proposals before Student Assembly.

Transparency makes up the final prong of the new codes. The new transparency requirements will have Student Assembly members declare their club membership, so as to make sure they do not vote on proposals from their organization. Additionally, more details about the funds will be included in the Student Assembly minutes for the student body to better understand where the money is going. Finally, the Funding Committee will have the right to audit organizations to ensure transparency from them.

These new codes are designed to benefit the Hamilton student body by asking organizations to put their best foot forward in their proposals so as to make the best possible use of funds for the students. More effectively used funds will also open the door to funding for additional organizations, further increasing the diversity of student programming. I strongly encourage the passage of the new funding codes.

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