Student Bursar Gina Scorpiniti ’19 led a Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC) listening session on Thurs., Nov. 15, 2018, to discuss possible changes to the system regarding how student organizations obtain money.
SOFC gathers money to disperse to student orgs. It gets its money from the student activity fee, with each student contributing $324 to the fee as part of their tuition. Treasurers from different student organizations then decide how much money they want and submit applications to SOFC during the fall.
According to Scorpiniti, SOFC would like to implement one annual deadline in April — compared to the current system with five deadlines — with smaller fall and spring emergency deadlines. This change would drastically affect the role of the treasurers of student organizations and assist the student bursar. If applications were filled out in April, treasurers would be more experienced because they would have held the position for the previous school year. Furthermore, treasurers would know how much money their organizations would have in the beginning of the fall semester. Thus, treasurers would now become event-planners and budgeters rather than just partener with SOFC.
“The shift to the new deadline system is necessary because there are numerous benefits to organizations and treasurers; the transition to the declining debit card system (where students no longer have to front money) would only be made possible with an annual system (given that it’s difficult on the back end to reload a card 5 times per year); and it would realistically result in more than $40,000 being placed back into the funding pool, which would greatly reduce the cuts to organizations’ funding,” said Scorpiniti.
Scorpiniti also explained the problems that arise from fronting money, where student organizations ask for reimbursements from SOFC. This gives preference to those who are able to spend their own money before being reimbursed. Because of this, SOFC has proposed to give student organizations declining debit cards. Some club sport teams are currently using these debit cards, and SOFC will be giving cards to Model UN, Mock Trial, Wellesley Out Loud, The Wellesley Debate Society and Babson/Olin/Wellesley (BOW) Climbing Club this spring as a trial to see if this idea can be expanded to other student organizations. If the trial is successful, annual deadlines would become a necessity as it would be difficult for SOFC to deposit money into the cards multiple times a year.
McKenna Montminy ’21 — an attendee — came on behalf of the Nordic skiing team, which has been using declining debit cards.
“The first year the Nordic Team was started the President then, Hannah Weissman, was fronting thousands of dollars to get the club started, but with the implementation of the debit cards last year we were able to pay for lodging and transportation which is essential since we have to travel around the Northeast for races,” said Montminy.
With the system, not all organizations receive the amounts that they ask for because of either mistakes on their applications or the fact that SOFC doesn’t have enough money. Currently, SOFC’s budget is approximately $706,000, which is then divided among guaranteed percentage (GP) and non-GP student organizations. GP organizations — which serve the entire campus — get forty percent of the budget, with the rest going to non-GP organizations.
To deal with the lack of money to distribute among student organizations last year, SOFC gave student organizations half of the desired amounts for events. This, however, incentivized applying for more money in order to receive the amount that was originally wanted. To combat this, SOFC has established a new dollar-per-student method. Rather than giving all organizations half of what they requested for events, SOFC will fully fund an event if the event is below a certain amount of money per student — which was $12.88 per student this fall — and will reduce the requested amount to that ratio if it is higher.
Some attendees voiced their concern with the prospective system, emphasizing the increased amount of stress for both SOFC and student organizations and the difficulties in implementing the new system.
“I would highly encourage you to read the SOFC Handout sent out with the November 26th Senate Minutes, which outlines these benefits in greater detail,” said Scorpiniti.