MCSG aims for a Smooth Transition

By Amy Lieberman

Matthew Stone Staff Writer Following its uncertainty over the size and future of Macalester College Student Government’s (MCSG) operating budget, the Financial Affairs Commission (FAC) seems to be looking toward next semester with a concrete plan of action.

FAC chair Siddharth Akali ’07 announced at Tuesday’s Legislative Body (LB) meeting that the FAC would no longer accept allocation requests from student organizations after Nov. 17. Student groups, he said, should instead focus on their budget requests for next semester, which are due on Nov. 11.

The LB voted to grant $585 in allocations to student organizations last week against the advice of Akali, who has recommended reserving the remaining operating funds for emergency purposes. The vote took place minutes after the LB learned that $1,430 remained in the operating budget.

After last week’s allocations, according to FAC figures, $846 currently remains in the operating fund, which has traditionally been reserved for additional allocations to student organizations.

Student organizations budget in advance for each semester by submitting a proposal to the FAC. In addition to the budget money they are allotted, organizations normally have the option of returning to the LB to request further funding during the semester, known as additional allocations.

Akali said that student groups should consider returning unneeded funds from their budgets to MCSG to generate more money for additional allocations. Two weeks ago, the operating fund was estimated at $1,100, and last week Akali wrote in an LB memo that only $230 remained. In response to Akali’s suggestion, Latino student group ­Adelante! gave back $1,200 in unused funds to the MCSG account, raising the total available operating funds to $1,430.

All but two members of the LB voted in favor of last week’s allocations despite Akali’s suggestion. The LB allocated funds to the student groups Art Alliance, Afrika! and Behavioral Economics at Macalester for two social events and a trip to a lecture in Minneapolis.

“Historically, this [granting additional allocations] has been the process,” Social Science Rep. Caleb Jonas ’07 said, explaining his vote in favor of distributing the funds. “Even though we are working with a small budget, we should still continue the practice. If we don’t, we will be sitting on [the money], and I don’t know what that will accomplish.” (PULL QUOTE)

Yet LB members still seemed concerned over how to properly use the remaining funds. Discussion arose over LB members’ claims that they were unaware of the budget figures until reading an article published in The Mac Weekly two weeks ago. Akali said he had been unable to find out the exact budget figures until then.

“Why was the LB not notified of the major news story?” Dupre Hall Rep. Jake Levy-Pollans ’09 asked at last week’s LB meeting.

“I guess I don’t understand how seven weeks into the school year it could not have been known,” he said, referring to the precise amount available in the operating fund.

“That’s the thing,” Akali responded. “There is absolutely no formal way of communication between old execs and new execs. The minute I got the transaction record I started looking into it.” (PULL QUOTE?)

Program Board chair Will Clarke ’07 agreed with Levy-Pollans’ sentiment over communication lapses, but discounted The Mac Weekly article as the main concern at hand.

“There was a whole lot of sensationalist journalism going on,” he said. “[But] there wasn’t a whole lot of communication going on. There were things outside of our control going on as well.”

Student organizations, unable to rely with certainty on additional allocations, must now plan with greater attention to detail and budget accordingly for their activities next semester. Akali and the FAC released budgeting guidelines for the Spring semester to student organization leaders two weeks ago.

“Don’t wait for a last minute allocation,” Akali wrote in the guidelines. “Planning ahead makes your programming better and it makes all our lives less stressful.”

However, Humanities Rep. Maggie Kinkead ’07, who also co-chairs the environmental group E-Fnk, said this focus on budgeting up front does not help student groups’ programming. She said that, by nature, it is difficult for student organizations to gauge their exact needs for a given semester several months in advance.

“Student orgs rely on the additional allocations to continue their activities,” she continued. “And it’s just becoming much more of a hassle for student org leaders.”

Alex Flores ’07, co-chair of ­Adelante!, also said that the upcoming budgeting deadline will be difficult for his organization to meet.

“The early deadline presents a large challenge in budgeting precisely for the entirety of the coming semester,” he said.

Nisha Krishnan ’07, a member of the FAC, said that the Nov. 11 deadline should not present any unusual complications for student groups. She said the deadline has been earlier in the past.

“I don’t think it should be that big of an issue,” Krishnan, who has led a student organization, said. “I have been there and I’ve stayed up late to do that.