Cut the red tape of student organization funding

Daniel Parker
Guest Columnist

VCU is home to more than 500 student organizations, and all of them often require financial aid from the university. The overbearing financial process at our school for legitimate requests, however, proves to be a hindrance for clubs.

The process of university funding for organizations follows a strict 60-page manual that can be discouraging to some because, despite filling out applications, an organization’s reimbursement can still be refused.

A club must purchase the items with their own money before they can receive a reimbursement. In order to receive this reimbursement, they must turn in a bank statement and a receipt all within five days or the request will be denied. Included in this form is a description of why they needed to purchase the items for their club activity. Student organizations should always be reimbursed for supplies, if they can prove these are a necessity to club operation.

As a member of Amnesty International, I was puzzled watching Shannon Minor, the club’s president, fill in a detailed paragraph for simple purchases like paper, a map and poster boards. After all, they were already detailed in the receipts and bank statements. Wouldn’t these be sufficient for approval?

Apparently not, as Minor explained to me; a previous request submitted by Amnesty was sent back requiring her to add more detail. The idea that simple items like paper and poster boards require a paragraph explanation seems unreasonable. None of these items received anything in reimbursements because Student Organization Finances referred to them as “office supplies,” which required a completely different form.

In the past, student organizations probably used funding inappropriately, so I understand the reason for precautions on giving reimbursements. It just seems bizarre that after producing evidence confirming the purchase of simple items like a poster board and envelopes, the group would still be denied funding from the school, because they didn’t fill out an office supply form that was buried somewhere in their 60-page finance training manual. Why can’t VCU just have a simple, one-size-fits-all form for reimbursement on operational and office supply items?

An important part of college is being involved in clubs. Extracurricular involvement gets you in contact with peers and helps you sustain long lasting friendships. Student organizations also give students valuable leadership skills and develop well-rounded resumes for future employers.

What sort of message is VCU sending by making students jump through hoops for the bare minimum to make a student organizations a success? Perhaps the goal is to make groups gain experience with the real world penny pinching bureaucracies that will stifle our creativity in the future, when we are debtors for the rest of our short existence?

In all seriousness, if VCU is trying to make a genuine attempt at rebranding itself as one of the top universities in the U.S., perhaps it should realize that while growing is good for the school, creating an environment of unnecessary overreach and regulation for student organizations hinders their success.

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