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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The History of SAF Funding

Published: December 2, 2005
Section: News

Over the summer students saw the Student Activity Fee (SAF) of $157.50 broken up into two different line-items on their tuition bills one for Student Events totaling $35 and one for everything else of $122.50 funded by the SAF. This change created concerns from current and past Union Officers that the administration was trying to control how students spend the SAF. Some students also wondered if the SAF was meant to be independently controlled by the student body without any administrative oversight.
In a multi-part series The Hoot will detail the ancient history of the SAF, more recent history, current reform efforts and finally student autonomy over the SAF.

The Ancient History of the SAF
Through a memo of understanding reached sometime in the 1970s between the University and Student government, the University Trustees have been billing students a fee which goes to pay for all student clubs and activities. Since the distribution of funds is set in the Union Constitution, only a Constitutional amendment can change how money is distributed. Following a successful vote, Union officers need to send a memo informing the President and the Board of Trustees about the change asking them to change the tuition in order to accommodate the difference.

In the 80s the SAF was named the Government and Media Fee (GMF). Part of the fee went to the WBRS and the Justice while the rest went to the Union Senate and the Allocations Board (a-board)now known as the Finance Board (f-board). While WBRS and the Justice were guaranteed a certain percentage of the Fee, all other Union Chartered clubs needed to go in front of the f-board to request funding. The GMF was a fixed fee rather than a percentage of tuition.

The original intent for separating the media groups from Union Government by guaranteeing them money was to prevent Union Government from having a knee-jerk reaction to something in the media and yanking their funding.

In the 80s the GMF was a fixed amount rather than percentage. The first group to successfully amend the Constitution and receive GMF funding was The Watch at that time a leftist campus magazine funded through a national left leaning organization.

After receiving BMF funding, The Watchs mission became to act as a check on the Justice and to provide an alternative forum for students to express themselves. The Watch printed three issues per semester and, in 1981, started receiving 1.17 percent of the GMF. In 2001, The Watch fell apart, partly due to some leadership problems and partly due to problems resulting from the move to the new Shapiro Campus Center.
By 1987, The BMF was set at $71 per student with 50.8 percent going to the A-board and 49 percent split amongst The Senate (13.9 percent), The Justice (12.7 percent), WBRS (18.7 percent) and The Watch (3.9 percent).

In 1988 The BMF was changed to $75 per student at the percentages each organization was to receive were slightly modified.

In 1983, The Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) was founded with $425 Senate Money Request from The Union Senate. In 1990 BEMCo joined the BMF receiving 1.63 percent of the BMF. After various failed attempts to increase their allotment, in spring 1994 BEMCo succeeded in raising the amount allocated to them to 3.14 percent. Their current allocation is roughly the same.

There also existed, at that time, a Student Events Fee which was voluntary and which supported The Programming Board (ProBo)the precursor to Student Events. In the mid 80s the Student Events Fee was made mandatory by a campus wide referendum.

In the late 80s and early 90s Archon was a non-secured organization which, due to a lack of student orders, was unable to pay its printing costs. As a result, in 1987, 1988, and 1989 Archon was not published. The University eventually reached an agreement with Archon paying for several years of yearbooks and paying off their debt. In return, the students voted Archon a secure organization in 1994 giving it enough money to both print and slowly pay off their debt to the University, which is believed to have been over $50,000 at one point. By 1998 Archon paid off its debt in full, however their allocated amount did not change.
In March of 1993 the Union Constitution was amended to merge the BMF with the SAF. It was set to some percentage $135 per student and distributed funds among The Student Senate/A-board (40.73 percent), The Justice (7.34 percent), WBRS (10.83 percent), The Watch (2.26 percent), BEMCo (1.63 percent), Student Events (27.13 percent) and The Yearbook (10.08 percent).

By 1998, the SAF was 1 percent of tuition instead of being a fixed fee. The Waltham Group was also added to the SAF groups list. The same year, the Union Constitution was rewritten and a clause was added requiring a review of the SAF system before the end of the millennium. This was done because Union Government officers felt that the system was based on an old and obsolete model since the amount of funds available to the Union had grown almost ten fold by that point. Although, the review was completed sometime in 2001, it didnt result to changes to constitution until 2003.

In 2002, The Debate Society attempted to join the SAF by taking some funds from WBRS, The Archon, and The Watch. After a challenge by The Archon and WBRS, The Union Judiciary ruled that The Debate Society misrepresented the current state of finances of WBRS and The Archon to students signing their amendment and therefore invalidated it. The Debate Society, now known as BADASS didnt make subsequent attempts in joining the SAF.

In Nov. 2002, BTVnow BTV65passed a constitutional amendment taking what was previously allocated to The Watch for themselves. At that time, The Watch had accumulated over $14,000 of unspent SAF money. This money was used in subsequent attempts to revive The Watch. Some remaining editors were able to put together four issues (Fall 2002, Spring 2003, Fall 2003 and Spring 2004) leaving approximately $4,000 of unspent funds in The Watch bank account.

From its inception the BMF collected roughly $70,000 towards student clubs. Currently the SAF collects roughly $1 million.

Next week, The Hoot will examine the more recent history of the SAF, including a major financial review and an audit of the Student Union which resulted in an amendment that drastically changed Union Finances and led to the discovery of over $120,000 in unspent Union funds and of an alleged misuse of money for personal gain by a former Union treasurer.