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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Senate looks inward with budget changes

Published: April 15, 2005
Section: News

The Brandeis Student Union Senate debated next semesters budget last Sunday. The budget, which will be voted upon by the Senate in two days, includes several changes put forth by Treasurer Nick Freeman 07, who is charged with creating the budget in consultation with Union President Jenny Feinberg 07.
One of Freemans more controversial proposals is the allocation of $5,000 to the Senate Discretionary Fund, a 50 percent decrease from the usual $10,000 allotment.

The Senates Discretionary was significantly cut because in the past the Senate has funded both its own initiatives and club initiatives, Freeman explained. Last month the Senate passed legislation that limits their discretionary to only Senate projects. Since theyre only funding half of what they used to, their discretionary was accordingly lowered.

This legislation is a positive step according to Freeman as the Senates purpose is to advocate for the students, not to appropriate funds. Specifically, he feels that the Senates role in fund allocation detracted from their ability to look at pertinent issues on campus.

Former Class of 08 Senator Noah Haber agreed, referring to handling club money requests as the bane of the Union.

Haber claimed that the Senate generally spends only $2000 $3000 from its discretionary fund each semester on its own projects and iniatives, and believes the $5000 allocation is still too high.

Freeman told the Hoot that allocating $5,000 this year was a way of folding in money that was previously set aside for Senate committees and other specific budget items. This semester each class committee, charged with sponsoring and organizing class events, received $500. Next semester they will receive just $250 each.

Its partially because a lot of the time that money goes unused, Freeman said.

Freeman believed forcing class senators to bring a money request to the entire Senate would democrative the event planning process and result in a more efficient system than allowing the senators to choose on their own how best to spend money for their class.

Freemans budget would also eliminate completely quad senator discretionary budgets. In the past quad senators have each received $100 for events and activities, money which generally goes unspent. While quad budgets were originally conceived of as a way for quad senators to work with their quad directors to jointly plan events or to hold quad munchies, generally such events would not occur until the end of the semester.

Freeman said the quad budgets were too small to plan real events and using them on munchies was ineffecitive.

Not that having pizza isnt a good thing, he said, but I feel like there are better ways to spend that money.

Haber suggests that the restructuring would encourage senators to work together to plan larger events rather than focusing on smaller class- or quad-focused activities.

The smaller discretionary pool follows passage of a Senate bylaw that restricts use of the discretionary to Senate projects and initiatives, cutting off a funding source that has been increasingly used in recent years to fund club events and property that Finance Board could not or would not pay for.

To fill the void I created a new line item in the budget tentatively being called the Additional Support Fund which will be $5,000, said Freeman. This new fund will have the same restrictions that the old SMR [Senate Money Resolution] system used to have: it will be open to recognized clubs, it will be open for food, for transportation costs, and it will even be open to groups on campus that are not necessarily even clubs.
Freeman believed it was important to have a venue for recognized clubs, non-Union organizations, and chartered clubs with special needs to receive funding.

I think its incredibly important that there be some venue for recognized clubs or a club that has a one time really important travel expense to be able to come to, he said.
Former Executive Senator Donnie Phillips 06 disagrees.

Since every student puts money into the Student Activity Fee, when funding club activity, every student should have the ability to take out of the SAF. That is why all chartered organizations, which have the ability to request money from the Finance Board, must be open to the entire Brandeis Community, he said.

To set up a fund that doesnt maintain that important clause is a strict violation of an essential philosophy. And if it did have inclusivity, then why isnt that money in the Finance Board Allocations Fund? Phillips wrote in an email to the Hoot.

Freeman said that, regardless of whether the clubs themselves are exclusive in their membership, they can do things that benefit the whole community. If a recognized club wants to hold an event that makes this campus a better place, they should be able to receive funding for it.

Freeman added that the Additional Support Fund would also serve an important role in funding costs the Finance Board would not.

For example, if there had been no source for the Mock Trial Team to get funding for the flight to the national championship tournament then, despite all their hard work and all their accomplishments, they wouldnt have been able to compete for a national title, he said.

Freeman said the Additional Support Fund would be useful because, while the Senate would still have the final say in funding decisions, the process would be moved off the floor of the Senate and this make Sunday Senate meetings more productive.

We want to make it so people feel a little bit better about this process. The whole point of this is that this is the students money and it should be accessible and it should be done in a way thats a fair system, he said.

This is a temporary fix for a larger issue, said Haber.

The Senate has not yet finalized the process for allocating the Additional Support Fund.

Freemans proposed budget totals $44,180. As a general rule, the Student Union budget is between $44,000 and $47,000. According to Freeman, budgeting on the conservative side allows for some wiggle room in the final proposal. This money comes from the SAF which is equivalent to 1 percent of tuition and generally totals around $900,000 each year. According to the Union Constitution, Union Government receives 9.37 percent of the allocation, the rest of which is allocated to the Finance Board and the seven Secured Organizations: Student Events, WBRS, the Justice, Archon, BTV, BEMCo, and Waltham Group.