Last week we discussed a few of the administrative problems that students have run up against in managing their organizations’ finances. This week we start digging into what happened with Student Activity Fee allocations this year.
Based on the research we’ve done so far, it would appear that SAFAC’s criteria for allocations changed somewhat significantly this year. Each organization is assigned a classification such as “Cultural” or “Political,” and now each classification is associated with certain types of funding that are considered standard based on a survey of student leaders. Any non-standard funding is less likely to be approved by SAFAC during the allocation process.
First, it would appear that many student leaders either were not aware of the change, or did not adjust their expectations for allocations accordingly. It is important for student leaders to do their due diligence — reading all emails and communicating with SAFAC liaisons and advisers — to ensure they are up-to-date and compliant with policies and procedures. Still, SAFAC could have done a better job of communicating this by emphasizing the changes in their communications or hosting a mandatory information session. Additionally, the SAFAC website was not updated with the policies and forms for the 2011-12 fiscal year, so anyone trying to do their due diligence there would have been using last year’s information.
Our second concern is with this new approach itself. We are glad to see that the committee took student feedback in hopes of making the allocation process more objective year-to-year, and hope that some of the kinks will be worked out next year. For example, according to the funding classification list, Standard Operational funding — commonly known as “pizza money” — is not standard for Academic/Professional and Political organizations. Pizza money is a staple in sustaining regular meetings and attracting new members. In past years, all organizations who applied for funding were automatically granted at least $500 Operational funding; this may have been more than necessary, but to completely eliminate this type of funding as a standard for any type of organization seems strange.
It’s important for everyone to acknowledge that allocation of funds is a complicated issue — as any member of the U.S. Congress can attest. The amount of money SAFAC has to work with certainly isn’t in the trillions, but it is quite significant. Organization leaders should consider themselves lobbyists (the good kind, not the dirty kind) when they complete that application and communicate with their liaison. The role of the liaison has been understated greatly in the process: meeting with them is not just about figuring out how to fill out the application — it’s about getting an idea of what evidence the committee needs to justify funding an organization’s efforts, and giving them that evidence. SAFAC has stated on many occasions that organizations who meet with their liaisons are more successful in garnering funding. Why not make this interaction mandatory? As busy Drexel students, we understand it’s often difficult to schedule meetings or find time to review documents via email — but is an hour of your time really not worth the few thousand dollars your organization might get in return? On that same token, we understand that liaisons are busy students with filled schedules, but it must be said that their limited office hours make it difficult for many organization leaders to arrange a time to meet.
Just like with your tax dollars, if you truly feel some injustice was done, ask your liaison what happened. Don’t just let it go — if it was something you did incorrectly, find out how you or your predecessors can improve for next year; if it’s a problem with SAFAC, help them improve so history isn’t doomed to repeat itself.
We are currently conducting an independent survey of student leaders to get a better idea of how organizations feel about this issue. Please consider taking a few minutes to let us know how your allocation process went this year at http://tri.gl/safacsurvey.
Disclosure: Editorial Board members are also current and past members of a number of SAFAC-funded student organizations. The Triangle is self-funded and does not seek or receive SAFAC money, but does maintain a non-SAFAC account through Drexel.