Last year's budget changes shape this year's clubs

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Sam Spiegel, ’11, stood up in front of the Allegheny Student Government (ASG) last April, budget appeal in hand, to ask ASG to allocate more money to Allegheny College Equestrian Team.  ASG voted down her appeal.

The long hours of last spring’s ASG budget hearings and appeals are over, but the ripple effects of drastic club budget changes manifest this month when clubs set off to split up their wealth, or in Speigel’s case, make plans for frequent budget requests from the ASG general fund this year.

The Equestrian Team (a club sport) had a budget last year of $6,100.  After requesting $9,400 for this year to pay for member lessons and shows, they were allotted $6,200.  When Speigel joined the Equestrian Team, they had a budget of $6,500.

“What happened was, two years ago we went $200 over our budget so they said they were taking that money from our budget for the next year,” Speigel said. “My issue was that they already knocked us a few hundred dollars under and were continuing to do so.”

For Speigel, this amount is hugely limiting for the Equestrian Team.

“Last year, we raised more money than any other club but the problem is they tell us, ‘You need to fundraise like hell and publicize yourselves,’ so we do that, and then we don’t get the budget increase we’re asking for,” Speigel said. “We fundraise the best, we are very organized, we follow all the rules and we don’t get rewarded for it. They gave us a ‘Pat on the back,” but they didn’t take into account what we accomplished.”

Although the Equestrian Team still holds the 7th highest club budget allocation in the entire college, it’s not enough to expand the club. Speigal had intentions to accommodate riders of all levels and organize club field trips, but the current budget does not allow her to do so.

“All we can afford right now is to fuel one niche of the team,” Speigal said. “A lot of members come as first years and it sucks that I can’t accommodate them. People are being turned away and they can’t do what they love because we can’t afford spots for them.”

The Equestrian Team wasn’t the only club sport with budget setbacks. Rugby Football, Ultimate Frisbee, and Fencing Club budgets remained stagnant, despite proposals for more money.  Men’s Volleyball lost $200 and Ice Hockey lost $1,600. The Cheerleading Team attended last spring’s budget appeals as well, but ASG voted to not allocate them any extra money.

President of the Young Feminist Leadership Alliance (YFLA) Katie Creehan, ’11, has quite the opposite budget experience. Last year, the two feminist groups on campus (Young Fems and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance) combined their members and budget, leading to the largest club budget increase of all.

“We were having problems with having two feminist clubs,” Creehan said. “We didn’t want our members to feel like they had to choose sides.”

The Young Fems had $525 last year and their merge with FMLA led to a combined budget of $2,300.  According to Creehan, YFLA plans to continue its annual Love Your Body Day festivities and a performance of The Vagina Monologues.  With the combined budget, they plan to attend spring conferences and bring speakers to campus, like Jessica Valenti of Feministing.com.

The Allegheny College Democrats had $1,500 last year, requested $1,440 during budget hearings and were allocated $1,200 this year.  This year, the College Republicans have a budget of $3,700 in comparison.

2009-2010 was a low key election year so the club only needed to hold a few, small events, according to College Democrats President Steve Jones. The College Democrats use their annual budget for setting up debates, doing voter outreach programs, and fundraisers for democratic candidates.

“As far as the budget reduction, I think in the process where they evaluate it, they look at how you spent it and our last year was a fairly dead year,” Jones said. “The expenditures are usually used to get out the vote and last year weren’t really utilized so I think we had a lot left over more than usual.”

For Jones, the question becomes one of fairness when his club’s events and budgetary expenditures are dependent on the political agenda year to year.

“I think it should be taken into consideration for political groups, when it’s an election year, obviously there’s a higher demand for resources,” Jones said. “At the same time, I don’t know why our budget was reduced if it was because of last year or because of budget issues overall with ASG.”

Allegheny College Model United Nations had $3,770 in their bank last year but only requested $2,200 at budget hearings, making them one of three campus clubs requesting a decrease in funding. Model U.N. President Steven Wu, ’12, believes last year’s conference costs were the problem.

“We haven’t been able to manage it well,” Wu said. “I feel as if, to put it bluntly, it would be irresponsible to request more and more every year, so this year, we’re focusing on membership and fundraising.”

The Islamic Awareness Society (IAS) had $800 last year and requested $8,100, but was bumped down to $600 instead. IAS President Samar Syed, ’12, was the club’s treasurer last year.  According to Syed, last year’s IAS president (Aarish Riaz, ’10) was comping and didn’t turn in forms to her in time. The IAS missed the budget hearing deadline. Despite the setback, Syed appreciated how ASG handled the situation.

“I was underprepared but [ASG] did not belittle us; they seemed to take us seriously and gave sensitive consideration,” Syed said. “I did not walk away with a bad taste in my mouth at all.”

Syed still intends for the IAS to remain active and bring guest speakers.  IAS and Queers and Allies plan to co-sponsor the upcoming visit of Daaiyee Abdullah to speak on being homosexual and Muslim.

“[The budget] does hold us back,” Syed said. “But we understood why they gave us that amount because not a lot went on last year. We’re pretty flexible and we know the budget depends on how well we do this year.”

Jevon Hatcher and Rhianna Hughes, both ’11, are two presidents enjoying the fruits of a solid treasury.

Hughes has been voted into Outing Club presidency for two years in a row and after a $500 increase from ASG last Spring, she can boast the largest club budget on campus: $10,000.  Hughes only has good things to say about the budget process.

“It’s nice that [ASG] hears us out,” Hughes said. “I can’t think of a better system.”

An important factor in Outing Club is the existance of participation fees, which enable the club to bring all interested students on excursions like whitewater rafting or backpacking, which would otherwise be individually expensive.

“We have to be very thorough with our expenses and always stay on top of our receipts, spreadsheets, and rentals,” Hughes said. “It’s an important coordination between the president and treasurer.  Last year our treasurer [Erin Joseph, ‘10] was a math major. Numbers were her thing; that helped.”

Outing Club will continue to expand. They have 28 trips planned for this semester, compared with last year’s 23 and they are trying to expand both the variety and difficulty of trips, according to Hughes.

Hatcher presides over the Association for the Advancement of Black Culture (ABC), which won the “Most Outstanding Organization” award at the Leadership Banquet last year.

“We always spend more that $10,000 a year, but we go in to request that extra money,” Hatcher said. “They’re never gonna give us that much upfront, it’s a matter of proving you’re using the money.”

Hatcher has a unique outlook on budgets because he also is a member of the ASG finance committee.

“I’m a little biased but I think the budget process vastly improved this year,” Hatcher said.

The Finance Committee now holds a “Finance 101” session for club treasurers to learn the proper procedures to get money.  According to Hatcher, ABC has been so successful because they have been financially responsible and they show results in programming for the entire campus to participate.

“You have to get thrifty and make your budget stretch,” Hatcher said.

For the Equestrian Team, making their budget stretch will be a challenge. Spiegel hopes the process will change.

“I definitely think they’re trying to be more careful but I feel like it’s a control thing,” Speigel said.  “It’s like, clubs have messed up in the past so we have to deal with all that paperwork, follow all these requirements; it’s just silly. Just give us enough money and we’ll shut up and be productive.”

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