Student organization budgets due Monday

By Peter Wright

Macalester College Student Government will have a tough act to follow when reviewing student organization draft budget proposals for the coming semester, which are due on Monday. The $32 student activity fee increase in 2007-08 allowed MCSG to allocate almost $10,000 more to student organizations this semester than it did last spring.Student groups this semester can most
likely look forward to more of the same
luxuries they enjoyed this semester, such as about $1,800 for snacks.

Financial Affairs Commisssion chair Henrik Hakonsen ’07 said that after the FAC audits individual student group proposals-a process that usually results in a significant reduction of initially requested funds-organizations receive a final budget for next semester.

The auditing process will be completed by Nov. 21, the deadline for final budgets.

Hakonsen said there is no concrete formula for calculating how much money each organization receives. He said the FAC is generally more willing to fund a well-established event with a history, like Diversity Weekend, than a new event.

“We look at how well it fits into the purpose of the organization,” Hakonsen said.

Funds from the student activity fee are distributed to student organizations. Of each $200 fee, $31.50 goes to the Program Board; $3 goes directly to Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, a statewide college organization that works for progressive causes; and $4.50 is deposited in the Travel Fund for student organizations. Ten dollars every fall semester is also placed in the capital fund. The rest of the money is placed into the operating fund, from which student groups receive most funds.

The current semester can provide a preview of what the upcoming budget proposals might look like.

Food was a popular item in this semester’s student organization budgets. In addition to the $1,814 spent on snacks, dinners and cookouts, other food-centered events cost MCSG $6,771.16. Together that is well over $8,000 spent on food. Hakonsen said that the FAC generally allots about $80 to each organization for snacks that can be used whenever the groups want.

The capital fund, the other source of student organization funding, is used for purchases that will not be exhausted in one semester or one year. MacBike relied entirely on capital funds this semester, receiving $1,331 for bicycle shop supplies. Flying Fingers spent $650 on smallpipes, a type of bagpipe, and the Macalester Martial Arts Club received $240 for wooden swords and staffs.

Smaller expenses, too, were funded through activity fees. The Caribbean Student Association received $9.78 for Christmas lights, according to FAC records.

When it comes to balancing funding between different religious and political organizations, Hakonsen said, the FAC funds whatever is requested from any student organization within the normal auditing guidelines.

The main exception is political funds. Student money cannot be used to endorse one particular candidate. Hakonsen said, however, that the FAC readily funds issues of social justice.

The total amount of money supplied by the FAC to organizations increased from $84,553.94 in the spring to $94,442.75 this semester.

One reason for the increase is that this semester was the first time the Travel Fund, which provides funding for overnight trips, was included with other expenses after MCSG established it last semester.

Based on FAC records, the Outing Club relied most heavily on the Travel Fund, receiving about 24 percent ($1,932) of the fund to finance five separate trips.
However, some leaders in the organization say that the new fund only creates more of a hassle.

“I am not sure what the purpose of the Travel Fund is with regards to student orgs, and why it is better than just allocated money for traveling as part of an org’s budget,” said Zoe Campbell ’08, one of Outing Club’s leaders. “MCSG and the FAC seem a bit confused about this as well.”

Campbell said that the fund adds red tape. The club had been allocated money from the Travel Fund earlier this year for a weekend canoe trip, she said, but when they tried to access the money they discovered that additional paperwork had to be filed for the specific trip in order to withdraw the money.

“It’s possible that we get more funding overall this way, with money coming from two different sources, but there’s no way to prove that at this point,” said Ben Larson ’08, the other Outing Club leader.

Including all three funds, the top five recipients of MCSG money are The Mac Weekly, WMCN, Outing Club, Macalester Peace and Justice Council and Chanter. The Mac Weekly has an $8,000 insurance policy and WMCN has a $5,000 policy; they are both funded through the operating fund. The Outing Club’s biggest expense is $6,283 (including an FAC loan of $2,500) for a wilderness first responder course to be held during the J-term.

In addition to the student organizations, the FAC allotted $5,258 for Diversity Weekend alone. It also provided $4,500 to make copies of The New York Times available in the Campus Center. Hakonsen said that those particular expenses are approved by the MCSG separately because they are not actually affiliated with an organization.