As you may have noticed, many student clubs had major cuts to their budgets this year. This is bad news for campus because it makes it harder for organizations to have elaborate events. It also makes it harder for clubs to take their members to off-campus events or conferences or pay for creating amazing things for campus.
During my four years as a senator in the Student Government Association (SGA), I got to see first-hand how club budgets are decided. The process may seem complex, but it’s actually very easy. In order to understand why club budgets are so small this year, there are a couple basic facts we need to understand.
Here are a few common questions and answers.
Q: Where does SGA get its money from?
A: All students pay an “Activity Fee” as part of their tuition. This money goes to SGA, as well as other campus activities.
Q: Who in SGA oversees the budget?
A: The Treasurer and the FBOAC committee create each year’s budget. FBOAC stands for “Financial, Budgetary, and Organizational Affairs Committee.” The SGA president decides who the treasurer is each year. Once a budget is made, it has to be approved by the whole SGA in a vote.
Q: What budgets does SGA have control over?
A: These include all student-run clubs (MC Cubers, Harry Potter Club, Black Student Alliance and all other clubs like that), and Automatic Allocation Clubs. Automatic Allocation Clubs get funded first and usually get a set amount of money each year.
Q: How much money do Automatically Allocated Clubs normally get?
A: They normally get either a set dollar amount or a set percent of the total SGA budget. Automatic Allocations can’t get more than their set dollar amount.
Student Programming Board: $80,000 or 38%
Highland Echo: $15,000 or 7%
Intramurals: $11,000 or 5%
Impressions Literary Magazine: $6,000 or 2.75%
Q: How big are budget cuts for small clubs?
A: Smaller, independent clubs usually have a 30% budget cut compared to what they request during the budgeting process. This means that a club that requests $2,000 would get about $1,400. Last year SGA made new rules to protect clubs that operate on small amounts of money. This means clubs that request about $1,000 or less get zero budget cuts (with fines for late budget submissions being the exception to this rule).
Q: Why are club budgets so tiny this year?
A. It’s mainly because less students are enrolled at Maryville College than previous years. With less students enrolling, there are less people paying Activity Fees.
For comparison, the total 2019/2020 budget was $196,308. The current 2021/2022 budget is $164,876. That’s a decline of 17%. Yikes.
Even automatic allocations are getting less money. Double yikes.
Remember, these budget cuts are solely decided by SGA. These are difficult decisions that no one wants to make.
When more clubs are fighting for less and less money, people ask why clubs like SPB get so much funding. This has been a constant budget debate for years: Should we fund one big organization that hosts a few big events or fund many small clubs that host several more-specialized events? This debate is complicated by the tension between small clubs and bigger organizations like SPB.
Some people have claimed that SGA is biased towards SPB, since both organizations often have the same people leading them. There have also been complaints of greater scrutiny over small club’s budgets than SPB’s budget. This is a touchy subject for many people in SGA because SPB is the largest single expense in their budget. Dozens of non-elected students are also involved in SPB, and they host several high-profile events on campus. There has been equal criticism toward small clubs, with some saying they are financially wasteful.
The truth is that SPB has an incredibly important role on campus. But so do the dozens of small, scrappy clubs that cater to a wide variety of student interests. Both are needed to have a vibrant campus community. SGA’s job is to find a budgetary balance between these two groups.
If SGA wanted to reduce tensions between smaller clubs and automatically allocated clubs, they would make two simple changes:
1. Prevent anyone currently a leader of an automatically allocated club (like SPB, Intramurals, etc.) from holding the office of president, vice president or treasurer, or from being on the SGA executive board.
2. Have SGA involvement in SPB’s budget/event planning. Students elected by the campus should have a say in how SPB operates, instead of the organization doing their planning behind closed doors.