The SGA’s allocation of funds has left some students with a sour taste
Student clubs and organizations are complaining they haven’t seen any of the $200,000 the SGA pledged to distribute this semester.
The Monroe Park SGA depleted its allocated $227,000 budget for this school year in October, and passed a subsequent $200,000 spending bill on Nov. 3 to cover expenses for the spring.
This year, the SGA received $646,384.20 from the total sum of mandatory $45 Student Activity Fees included with every VCU student’s tuition.
While the university automatically distributes money to the Sports Club Council, the Fraternity/Sorority Life Council and Graduate Student Council from the SGA’s overall budget, the remaining funds intended to fund student organizations are regulated by the SGA’s appropriation committee.
Student organizations and clubs must go through the SGA to receive funding for operation finances, travel and complex events.
Monroe Park SGA president Brandon Day said club and organization members complaining about funding are being too impatient with their funding requests.
“I get emails every day, dozens, and a lot of them are ‘Hey, my event is in two weeks and we haven’t heard back,’” Day said.
He added that the appropriations committee only meets once a week, which is when they see between 30 and 50 funding requests.
“(That’s) a significant chunk, but the reality is it’s all based on timelines. Some people aren’t hearing back when they want to,” Day said.
Tommy McPhail, president of the VCU Quidditch Club, said he would describe the process of trying to obtain SGA funding as confusing and generally unhelpful.
The Quidditch Club ran into difficulties when they were unable to provide months-in-advance notice of exact dates for the team’s travel times to events, such as their trip to South Carolina in April for the Quidditch World Cup — a national tournament that only 80 of 1,000 college teams are selected to compete in.
“For example, we didn’t get our spring schedule locked in until (late January) but funding, in terms of travel and gas, would’ve needed to be submitted last semester,” McPhail said.
McPhail conceded that the SGA has made improvements in training SGA staff as well as helping clubs and organizations better understand the available funding options.
This year, there was a change in the bylaws that allows for student organizations and clubs to work directly with the appropriations committee. This change was implemented in an attempt to expedite the process of distributing funds.
“It allows us to move much more quickly through the (student organizations) that are coming through,” Day said.
Another controversy surrounding the SGA’s responsibility to provide and fairly distrubte funding includes conflict of interest concerns regarding students in the SGA who are also active in other organizations on campus.
For example, Day is also the director of marketing and communications for the Students Today Alumni Tomorrow association (STAT) at VCU.
Day said there is a system in place that prevent a single committee member from having any amount of leverage over the appropriations.
Mainly, he claimed that because the meetings are so lengthy, usually around three hours, and the appropriations committee consists of many members, there’s no way for a single member to exert too much influence.
Reuban Rodriguez, dean of student affairs and faculty advisor for the SGA echoed this sentiment.
“(The appropriations committee members) look at the student body as a whole, not the membership of what organization they adhere to,” Rodriguez stated in a previous interview. “There’s over 60 students involved making these decisions. It’d be difficult for any particular organization to exert undue influence.”
Day said the SGA does not play favorites when deciding who gets how much funding, and committee members are encouraged to abstain from voting on funding for organizations they are members of.