Budgetary Committee Revises Funding Policy
Issue   |   Tue, 03/06/2018 - 21:04

The Budgetary Committee (BC) announced a policy change that would open up funding for both on-campus and off-campus activities over break on Dec. 2, 2017. Off-campus activities, however, would not be eligible for funding related to accommodations, transportation or food. A few months after this change, students are starting to feel its effects, both positive and negative.

In the original email that notified the student body about recommended club budgets and the change to the spring break trips policy, Jacob Silverman ’19, treasurer of the Association of Amherst Students (AAS), wrote: “New BC policy mandates that off-campus break requests (ex: spring break trips) can only be approved in club budgets and are not eligible for funding related to accommodations, transportation or food. Funding for on-campus breaks can be requested through the discretionary fund, however.”

Isiaha Price ’21, a member of the BC, said that “historically, we don’t fund trips, or fund anything that’s over break — over summer, over [winter] break, over Thanksgiving break.” He added that the reason behind this was budgetary restraints; last semester, the BC got down to the last five percent of their budget without covering the costs of activities over breaks.

There have been some exceptions to this rule, however. For the last 14 years, the men’s and women’s ultimate frisbee teams have received funding from the BC to travel to the High Tide Ultimate Tournament, which takes place over spring break in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The funding covered the tournament fee and housing.

AAS President Aditi Krishnamurthy ’18 said that the ultimate frisbee teams’ spring break trips have been funded for so long because “some treasurer many, many years ago started funding that trip, and it became this question of precedent versus policy.” She added that there have been attempts to stop funding this trip in the past, but the issue was always appealed and the trips continued to be funded.

During Fall 2017, making the exception for the ultimate frisbee teams became a bigger problem, as members of the BC noticed that more clubs were starting to make funding requests for activities over breaks.

“Because we have always allowed frisbee as an exception to that rule, there was a big sentiment that it wouldn’t be fair anymore to just simply allow them to travel for spring break, and then not fund other groups,” BC member Natalia Khoudian ’20 said. “So, we decided it would be much better to make a formal policy that would allow spring break trips and contingencies around it.”

In addition, Price said that “there is a precedent to keep funding things, but it’s not really sustainable … if we’re funding every club, like over [winter] break, which is a month long, then only a few people are getting to use [the funds] and it’s not really equitable to the rest of the school.”

Monetary concerns were also part of the problem. In the Fall 2017 budget, the ultimate frisbee teams requested $16,400 to cover the costs of lodging for the High Tide tournament, which is “a pretty large sum for a frisbee trip over break,” according to Price.

The requested tournament fee was $1,200 for the High Tide trip; the teams received $600 through club budgets and $675 through discretionary funds for a total of $1,275 spent on registration. The teams also received $14,200 for housing for their spring break trip this year: $8,200 through the club budgets and $6,000 through the discretionary fund. Although they will continue to receive funding for their registration fees following this policy change, there are concerns about how they will pay for lodging in the future.

Khoudian said that funding from the Office of Student Activities or alumni donations were possible ways to alleviate the burden of the cost. “It’s just hard because I know that they’ve always funded [the frisbee teams] as an exception, but ultimately, exceptions aren’t always fair,” Khoudian said. She added that this policy change has positively affected other clubs, such as the International Students Association, which has requested funding from BC for on-campus activities such as $400 for ice skating over spring break.

If students have concerns about this change or other policies, the BC and Senate meetings are always open to the student body, Krishnamurthy said. “I think if they would like to give feedback, it’s not that hard,” she added. “It’s a student running the whole enterprise, you can send an email, you know where they are. Budgetary Committee meets twice a week. You can come to Senate; it’s an open meeting. You can come every Monday night if you have something to say, and say it. So if someone wants to give feedback, they really can’t say that there’s no way for them to do it; there are a lot of ways for them to give feedback.”