Following up on complaints from student organization leaders, The Triangle reached out to the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee for comment this week. Nicholas Gomersall, outgoing vice-chair of SAFAC, responded in an email on behalf of the committee.
SAFAC is a group of students responsible for allocating funds from the undergraduate Student Activity Fee to recognized student organizations each year. Committee members are assigned as liaisons to advise specific groups on the process of applying for funds. Gomersall provided insight into the role of a student liaison to the clubs they advise, stressing the importance of meeting with a liaison for a club.
“Student organizations that don’t work with their liaisons are not outright penalized, and many still fill out the application without incident,” Gomersall wrote in his email. “However, it is usually beneficial for organizations to meet with their liaison, particularly in the interest of making sure enough details are included and that the liaison knows what each of the expenses on the application is going toward.”
Gomersall noted that of the 12 organizations assigned to him, representatives from only half met with him in person, and two groups contacted him via email.
Each liaison is assigned an average of 12 student organizations or clubs, based on the classifications for annual allocations, which were updated this year. The revisions include redefining the academic classification to academic/professional. A new classification called “non-club sport competitive” was added as well.
Regarding funding, Gomersall explained that when organizations aren’t approved for an event, it may be because it’s redundant.
“In the incidents reported in The Triangle last issue, a student who requested repeat funding had specified a particular speaker and their appropriate travel expenses,” Gomersall wrote, noting that this was a reasonable request. “[However] it was decided that it would be an ineffective use of funds to bring the same speaker to campus two years in a row.”
Some of the complaints made about SAFAC were in regards to the allocations process, and Gomersall said he and his fellow liaisons are well aware of past issues. He said the new student organization classifications will facilitate more accurate allocations than in past years. SAFAC conducted an online survey during winter term to help determine what types of funding were common for each club classification.
Creating the funding classifications is just one way Gomersall said SAFAC is improving. In addition, he said that making student leaders aware of the importance of meeting with a liaison is vital.
“There are some significant amounts of money available, and it is imperative that students are aware that this cannot be doled out on a whim,” Gomersall wrote, explaining that lack of clarity has been a reason for denying funding in the past.
“To make a comparison which all of your readers should be familiar with, filling out scholarship applications required a great degree of attention to detail and possibly several re-writes of the scholarship essays. In most cases, we are on par with the amount of money being distributed, so it is expected that the same amount of detail be included in the application,” Gomersall wrote.
Gomersall also mentioned that he is troubled with the fact that complaints are being made from members of clubs besides the president or treasurer.
“It is these executives who are tasked with interfacing with SAFAC and in order to make the most effective use of everyone’s time, we would prefer that these points of contact be used to their intended purpose.”
Gomersall also described what it has been like during his three years with SAFAC working with adviser Joseph Gonzalez.
“[Gonzalez] is very attentive to detail and helps keep the committee on track as far as Drexel policies and procedures,” he wrote, also pointing out that as an adviser, Gonzalez does not make funding decisions.
“In terms of student organizations being able to go to him as a point of contact for their purchases, it seems as though the amount of time required of him is greater than is possible for a single position.”
It was this, Gomersall said, that prompted the Office of Student Life to recommend that SAFAC hire an additional staff person. In March, it was announced that Casey Sharkey would join SAFAC as the organization’s newest coordinator. She previously worked at Drexel as a customer service specialist for the Health Insurance and Immunizations Office.
Gomersall is optimistic about the addition, and said he sees it as a chance for SAFAC to benefit from a new perspective.
“It is the hope of the committee that the addition of Sharkey to our team will help bring new and innovative ideas to the committee and add a new perspective to our administration,” Gomersall wrote.
The Triangle is currently conducting an independent survey of student leaders to get a better idea of how organizations feel about the SAFAC process. Please consider taking a few minutes to let us know how your allocation process went this year at http://tri.gl/safacsurvey.