The Daily Gamecock

Student Government's student organization activity fund expected to run out in December

<p>FILE — Name cards cover the backs of seats as members of the student senate begin to enter for their meeting on Oct. 4. Members represent all grade levels of the student body.</p>
FILE — Name cards cover the backs of seats as members of the student senate begin to enter for their meeting on Oct. 4. Members represent all grade levels of the student body.

After running out of funding for student organizations at the end of last fiscal year, Student Government is again set to run out of funds in December.

Over 50% of the fiscal year’s funds have already been allocated, and current funds for student organizations are projected to run out before the year end, according to the student senate finance committee's Oct. 13 meeting minutes.

Student Body Treasurer Hannah Augsbach-Lamma estimated that there was approximately $10,000 left in this year’s budget, as of Nov. 29.

If the funds run out, student organizations will not be able to receive any money from Student Government until July 1, when the new fiscal year begins. 

A student organization will typically make a funding request to the senate finance committee no later than 15 days before a university event. The finance committee then goes over and debate seach allocation request during the weekly meeting and decides whether to allocate the full amount, a partial amount or none.

All of the funds slated to be allocated for that week are crafted into a weekly bill that is brought onto the senate floor for a vote during the senate's weekly meetings on Wednesdays. The senate then decides whether to pass or veto the bill.

Past bills have previously allocated between $17,000 and almost $25,000 per week which rapidly drained the yearly student activity funds  

The potential for another bankruptcy led former speaker pro tempore of the student senate Ian Herd to resign from his position at the Nov. 15 senate meeting. However, Herd still stayed on as a senator to help address increasing frustrations over how the senate finance committee was handling the allocation of the student organization funds.

“I feel, quite frankly, that leadership is not addressing the fact that we are hemorrhaging money," Herd said. "I respect the institution of the senate, but I didn't think it would be fair to continue in my role representing the senate when I have such fundamental disagreements with how it's being operated and the casualness with which we appropriate money.” 

The Student Government had promised to prevent another bankruptcy, but it is now in the same position as it was last year, Herd said.

“I think it's a shame that last senate, we ran out of money and promised our students we would do better, we would be better fiduciaries, we would take care of these problems," Herd said. "And here we are, facing the same issue, and it's the same senators promising to fix it.” 

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The student senate has proposed measures that could help prevent future bankruptcies. 

A bill to establish an ad hoc — a special committee to study and propose potential finance code reform — was introduced on Nov. 1. 

The bill calls for a committee to be formed to research potential changes to the student activity fee and the appropriation of student activity funds. It also calls for the committee to make any proposals it deems necessary to make student activity fund allocations more responsible. 

The bill was passed unanimously by a voice vote. There was much contention on the floor before the vote both over how the bill was introduced to the floor and due to the fact that the finance committee would not be able to deem the bill favorable or unfavorable. 

Senator Camden Kaye, a sponsor of the bill, said he was excited that the bill passed and for the committee to begin its work.

“I’m sure we’ll do a lot with that bill,” Kaye said. “We’re really hoping to kick it into fifth gear and kind of push a lot of things through with that."

Herd, another sponsor of the bill, said he hopes that the research and proposals done by the committee will lead to meaningful reform for students.

“I’m very excited for the committee to start researching finance issues and to ensure that our students are getting the best bang for their buck,” Herd said. 

Chairman of the senate finance committee Patrick Koon sponsored a separate bill that aims to reform and make the financial codes more equitable. 

The bill calls for many changes, such as only requiring a presentation to the finance committee for requesting amounts above $1,000 and not allowing for more than 5% of the total amount of student organization funds to be allocated to one student organization.

Organizations previously had to present to the senate finance committee if their request exceeded $500. There was also no cap on how many funds one student organization could receive, according to the Student Government codes.

Vice chairwoman of the senate finance committee Hannah Durham said at the Nov. 29 student senate meeting that not requiring a presentation for requests under $1,000 would allow the committee “to allocate our time more efficiently and effectively.”

Durham also said that capping allocations for one organization will allow funds to be distributed more equitably. 

“The threshold implemented states that 'no more than 5% of the student activity fund can be allocated to a singular organization,' (which) is also going to be very helpful in terms of how we allocate to different groups and organizations. This means that not too much money will be allocated to one organization,” Durham said. 

The bill is scheduled to be voted on during the Dec. 6 student senate meeting.

The changes to the codes will take place at the beginning of next academic year on Aug. 22, 2024, if Koon's proposed bill passes the senate and is approved by the student body president.