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Student org funding: A life lesson in bureaucracy | The Triangle

Student org funding: A life lesson in bureaucracy

Student Activity Fund allocations for the 2011-12 fiscal year were released this week, and murmurs of discontent have spread throughout the student body. Between most organizations receiving a smaller budget than last year and some clubs receiving little to no funding due to asinine reasons, it’s no wonder club leaders are in a foul mood.

Next week we will dig deeper into the process of SAFAC allocations, but for now we would like to discuss some of the administrative issues students have raised with us.

For years student leaders have known that Joseph Gonzalez, assistant director for Campus Engagement and SAFAC adviser, has held a job too large for one man to handle given the number of times we’ve heard students say he is too busy to answer their emails and calls. We were relieved to hear that Casey Sharkey was hired to help carry the burden of administering accounts for the 200+ recognized student organizations. We have high hopes that her addition will alleviate the first and foremost solvable problem that we have observed.

The SAFAC office is one of the places on campus we affectionately refer to as a “black hole” — oftentimes paperwork and communications go in, and they either take an inordinate amount of time to come back out or disappear altogether. You’d think it would be common courtesy to let students know if there is trouble with a bill they are trying to pay, or to provide a simple confirmation that something has in fact been processed, but often there is naught but dead silence. Clear and open communication is a critical skill in business and in life, and we hope that Drexel staff at every level are aware they should be serving as a good example of professionalism for students.

In addition to better interactions with Drexel staff, students need modern tools to manage their finances. These days students are used to monitoring their personal bank accounts online, so when WebFinance access was provided back in 2009, student treasurers across the University were ecstatic. Of course, access was only provided to SAFAC accounts (all student organizations also have non-SAFAC accounts to store money from fundraisers, donations, etc.), and it was promised that access to non-SAFAC accounts would be provided in the near future. Not only was this promise never fulfilled, but WebFinance access for SAFAC accounts also ceased to function in fall 2010. Providing direct access to this system would take a significant burden off the SAFAC office staff in that they would no longer have to set up meetings for the sole purpose of showing a student organization its current account balances. It would also help students be aware of when charges are processed so they know if their requests are being processed and their bills paid in a timely fashion. Pushing through this functionality for all student organization accounts should be the top priority for SAFAC right now.

Handling fiscal matters is one of the most valuable learning experiences students can gain while operating an organization at Drexel. We greatly appreciate that the University affords us this opportunity and provides a safety net in the form of policies, as well as advisers who monitor our activities and shield us from some of the bureaucracy. But when these mechanisms prevent students from carrying out their missions, something must change.

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.