With elections nearing, SGA and the Appropriations Committee are brainstorming new ways to improve budgeting system.
On Monday, March 16, faculty and students gathered for what was originally a debate for SGA elections. The candidates are running unopposed, and instead used the event as a chance for students to ask their future representatives questions.
Presidential and vice presidential elections are nearing. Beginning on March 24 and ending March 26, students can vote online, in the Student Commons or in Shafer from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The two unopposed candidates are sophomores Suraj Telhan and MaryBeth DeMarco. Telhan, currently the Deputy Chief Justice in SGA, is an information systems major and is running for SGA president. DeMarco, the co-chair of the External Affairs Committee, is an exercise science major running for the position of SGA vice president.
Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Reuban Rodriguez asked the candidates what they consider to be the biggest issue in SGA. Both Telhan and DeMarco agreed on an insufficient amount of transparency between the SGA and the student body.
“(SGA) is a great liaison between students and faculty,” Telhan said. “A lot of students don’t know about it.”
Telhan and DeMarco believe that making information more easily accessible would be beneficial in clearing up confusion between the SGA and student body. They expressed ideas on how to keep students more informed, such as updating the webpage more frequently and holding more forums.
When asked how the two will uphold members to go through with their duties, DeMarco noted that the issue stems from a lack of cohesiveness within the government.
“By motivating people internally to be more tight-knit I feel like it would increase the amount of work people are doing,” DeMarco said.
Telhan and DeMarco also plan on lowering the amount of senate seats in an effort to ensure more participation and fulfillment of duties.
Less than 20 students, many of them fellow SGA members, attended the SGA information session. Other SGA members asked the majority of the questions.
The lack of funding for student organizations was a trending topic at the event. Telhan and DeMarco suggested ideas on how the two plan on creating a more efficient system of budgeting.
“I do like that the current structure (is based on) when your event is because it gives the appropriations committee more time to handle all those proposals,” Telhan said.
Though Telhan believes the current structure, which requires organizations to create proposals based on their event date, is sufficient, he offers an alternative solution to the issue.
“We really want to split the budget by semester so that there is still room for funding for those events later in the year,” Telhan said.
The hope is that by splitting the budget by semester, there would still be an adequate amount of money left for events held later in the year.
That wasn’t the end of the budgeting discussion.
Thursday evening, the Appropriations Committee held their first open-ended forum in the Commons Theater. The intent was to increase understanding between organizations and the committee.
The forum, the first the committee has held, kicked off with an introduction from the SGA Appropriations Committee Chair, Vivek Patel. He began by giving a step-by-step process of distribution of funds.
Each student pays a $45 activity fee, which totals roughly $2 million. That fund is then distributed to SGA Appropriations Committee, the Student Media Center, the Programming Commission and the Student Activities Advisory.
This year, the appropriations committee was allotted roughly $227,000. After running out, they requested $200,000 out of the rollover fund.
The rollover fund consists of two sources: funds SGA doesn’t end up distributing, and any leftover funds from an organization’s event.
When asked if the committee knew they would run out of money, Patel said, “We had no idea,” explaining that the committee used the money they’d gone through the year thus far to project how the rest of the school year would be.
According to Patel, with an increase in the amount of clubs and funding requests, the funding available was disproportionate to the growing number of requests.
“So that was the reason the $200,000 did not last,” Patel said.
He added that potential changes include hearing proposals based on a first come first served basis rather than how soon the event takes place.
“This is one of the big things we are going to change in our bylaws,” Patel said.
Another idea the committee is considering is splitting the total amount of funding over the year by two months. That would mean about $50,000 would be allotted for each couple of months. This would be adopted with the first come first served policy.
The forum did not just address the concerns of the student organizations, but also the concerns of the appropriations committee, finance committee and the event-planning faculty.
When a student from the International Business Club asked for advice on how to fundraise or how to proceed without funding from the school, it sparked a pronounced response from many of the faculty members.
“Take control and just do it,” George Kelly, assistant director for Finance and Personnel, said. “Don’t take (the school’s) money for granted like it’s always going to be there.”
This sentiment was popular among many of the faculty involved with event planning and finance.
“However you want to raise money, it’s possible,” Patel added.
Le’Andra Graves, a VCU Event Planner, noted how important it is that students utilize resources available to them. She noted that leaders of clubs often fail to come to their office for advising.
“Even though we can’t tell you what to do we can give you suggestions,” Graves said.
For those who are concerned with the distribution of funds, an official document will be published and released as a PDF at the end of the fiscal year, which documents the amount of funding given to each organization. It is a document required by law in the state of Virginia.
The SGA and the Appropriations Committees are currently working to change a number of aspects of the bylaws. This is in order to create a more efficient system of allocating funds to organizations.