Budgetary Committee Dicusses Potential Improvements
Issue   |   Wed, 03/25/2015 - 00:45

Association of Amherst Students President Tomi Williams ’16 and the Budgetary Committee members held an open meeting on Tuesday, March 24 to discuss the current budgetary process and receive suggestions as well as feedback from the attendees. The meeting focused on how the AAS could more efficiently allocate budget to student organizations.

The open meeting began with the Budgetary Committee members and other attendees recognizing the positive aspects of the current budgetary process. Williams said that at a recent student government conference he attended, members of student governments at other institutions said that their administrations control much of the student governments’ budget and that it is much more difficult to acquire the proper funding.

“The AAS has more money at our disposable and our process is more independent of the administration, which gives us more flexibility, as well as accountability,” Williams said. “Other student governments at the conference were saying that they wish they had the similar level of freedom.”

After clarifying the successful components of the current process, Williams then asked the group for aspects of the budgetary process that must be addressed. AAS senator and Budgetary Committee member Fawzi Itani ’18 said that even though the budgetary guideline is available online, there is still much confusion over the guidelines.

“We should have the major points of the guideline communicated in a more effective way,” AAS senator and Budgetary Committee member Marie Lambert ’15 said. “I don’t think people know about the location of the guidelines due to how the website is laid out.” However, she said that as of now, the AAS does not have authority over the design layout of the college’s website.

A student in attendance also said that in the past, there have been simple requests by student organizations, such as money for food for a collaborative event between a club and the Mead Art Museum,that were denied by the Budgetary Committee.
AAS senator and Budgetary Committee member Sam Keaser ’17E said while the committee strictly follows the guideline, which is readily available on the college’s website, the committee does run out of money at a certain point.

“We are generally less willing to give money to those groups that we think have another source of money besides the AAS,” Lambert added. “However, we want to prevent groups from not getting the money they need … we should be more active in helping student organizations find financial sponsorship.”

Keaser suggested that the AAS establish a closer coordination with other budgetary sources and student programming on campus.

“We should have a closer contact with other possible sources so that we can collaborate on how to manage our budget, while still being able to help everyone,” he said.

Williams also asked the group how the Budgetary Committee can speed up the process so that the funding procedure does not take up nearly as much time as it does now.

“It’s not so worrisome to me that [the funding process] takes up a lot of time,” Itani said. “Rather, it’s that people are coming in to request money and end up not using all the money they previously requested.”

The current budgetary guideline states the idea of “credit rating,” in which groups “that have significant balances of allocated but unused money at the end of a semester will receive warnings and potential future funding suspensions or penalties.”

Lambert said that this has been very problematic because when groups request money and donot spend all of it, they continuously ask for more money and the committee has to allot more money than needed, which is an inefficient allocation of a limited budget. “We don’t have a strict system that penalizes people, and that’s not necessarily something that we want to do, but it’s something that we want to keep in mind who is more reliable,” Lambert said.

As another way of figuring out a more efficient budget allocation method, the Budgetary Committee members have previously discussed a card-swipe system, in which attendees will swipe in at the entrance of AAS funded events.

“We have talked about a card-swipe system to keep track of how well-attended certain events ... and see [what event] will be more beneficial to the student body and ask, is it fair to keep funding not well-attended events?” Itani said.

In order to increase awareness about the current budgetary procedure, Williams brought up the idea of instating a credit system like the one practiced at Hamilton College, in which leaders of student organizations can attend trainings about policies and receive extra funding for their groups. The Budgetary Committee members said that instead, they have discussed the possibility of penalizing student groups by not allocating a club budget if club leaders do not attend a mandatory informational meeting.

“There is a meeting at the beginning of the year for all of the club leaders, which is generally well-attended, but unfortunately, not everyone attends,” Lambert said. “It is a lot of information at once, happens at the beginning of the year and there are leadership changes within student groups, so it is hard to find the perfect way to enforce this meeting.”

“We are trying to figure out how to incentivize people for better attendance,” she added.