Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

A small change in funding policy

One of the main reasons for the financial branch of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) to exist is to ensure funding for student groups and events that enliven a Stanford student’s experience. Yet, as many know, these funds are not unlimited and must be handled with care. In response to the claims that our previous funding system was inefficient and did not meet the full needs of student groups, both the elected student representatives and Stanford Undergraduate student body came together and rallied around a new funding system, voting it into place during winter quarter of last school year. Under this new funding system, student groups went to the student body to request funding for large scale events that could be planned out and budgeted on an annual basis. As a result, you, as Stanford students and therefore members of Associated Students of Stanford University, were given the power to review the budgets of groups and to vote whether or not to fund these groups through the elections. Based on students’ votes, some groups were not funded, while others received hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to be used as laid out in the budgets presented to the student body.   

As some of you may know, we recently wrote a bill that was passed by both the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council, modifying the Joint by-laws of the Association. The central issue around this bill revolves around the use of budget modifications. The standard use of a budget modification allows for a group that received money from the election to transfer funds from one account, like utensils or gas, to food, in a situation where a group overspent on food for an event but still had funds in one of the other line-item accounts. This year, we came across an issue with regards to a budget modification made by a group that received funds through the election. With the goal of transparency, we decided to inform the student body of the instance and what is being done to rectify the possible problem that was spotted. While most budget modifications are relatively small and fairly simple, the modification in question represented a major transfer in funds and what the financial branch of the ASSU saw as a deviation from the intended scope and nature of the allocation voted on by the student body.

During the election last spring, the group in question requested funds on the premise of executing one large event for the campus community. The event in question did not occur. Instead, the group went to the Undergraduate Senate and got a modification that changed the purpose of their budget from funding this one major event to funding a series of smaller events. While these smaller events may still be giving back to the public, it raises the question of precedent and what this means for the budgets that students review and use to inform their decisions when voting.

While the budget modification was approved by the Undergraduate Senate, the financial branch with the Undergraduate Senate, and the Graduate Student Council have since come to question whether this was a proper use of a budget modification. We have been looking over the ambiguities in the funding policy that allowed for the modification to occur with the hopes of creating better policies to govern budget modifications and other possible funding issues. As a result of these efforts to clarify the issue of budget modifications and to address further ambiguities within the ASSU’s funding policy, the financial branch put forth a bill in both the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council outlining two initiatives: One, a policy change for budget modifications, and two, encouraging the formation of a funding committee made up of members of the Graduate Student Council, the Appropriations Committee of the Undergraduate Senate, and in conjunction with the Financial Manager and Asst. Financial Managers. It is our hope that this bill and the committee that comes from it will be able to create effective, transparent and lasting funding policies that will keep all groups and ASSU organizations accountable and will help the governing bodies of the ASSU better serve the Stanford student body.

– By Financial Manager Frederik Groce and Asst. Financial Managers Luka Fatuesi and Sean Means

 

Contact Frederik Groce at fgroce@stanford.edu, Luka Fatuesi at lfatuesi ‘at’ stanford.edu and Sean Means at smeans2@stanford.edu