By Noah Manskar, Transcript Reporter
The accession of a new Wesleyan Council on Student Affairs executive body has brought several changes to the organization’s budgetary process in an effort to make it more efficient.
A primary instrument in this has been the installation of new software that allows WCSA Treasurer Marshall Morris to see in real time how much money is in the account of each individual student organization.
According to Morris, the treasurer and budget committee were not previously privy to this information. Requests to see an account balance for any organization was “all done by paper,” a process that took two days.
“Many of the budget requests that came before the committee were kind of allocated in the dark, not knowing how much money the club actually had,” Morris said.
The program was headed in part by the Financial Affairs office. According to Eric Algoe, vice-president for finance and administration, it was installed in the summer but there were some difficulties with its operation in the fall semester.
“There was a period of time in the fall when the accounts were not easily available online while we were implementing our new systems, but the accounting staff of the university met with the WCSA treasurer during that time to provide as much support as possible in making their initial allocations,” he said.
Morris said the software has made his job as treasurer easier overall.
“I really do like it,” he said. “I think it provides a more clear understanding of what the status of each club is. That protects us from over-allocating money to them.”
Morris also said he has experienced some difficulties with the program. Despite being able to view balances for individual organizations, he and the budget committee does not have permission to see how much money is in the aggregate WCSA account.
WCSA’s budget comes from the student activity fee, a flat rate of $110 paid by all students each semester; the budget committee can therefore make a rough estimate of the balance of the WCSA account by multiplying the number of currently enrolled students by 110. Morris said while this is helpful, he’d like the ability to know the exact amount of money he and the committee have to work with.
According to Morris, deciding balances he is allowed to see is entirely up to the administration.
“This was something so far above any student organization,” he said. “The students really didn’t have a say, but this is something they thought would help maintain accounts on their level. They have so many more accounts and stuff than I do. I was just granted one little sliver to help better accurately fund organizations.”
Algoe said the administration has “exercised almost no influence or control” over the WCSA account, only handling money transfers and ensuring “nothing illegal happens with the funds.” He was unaware the lack of permissions would be an issue for the budget committee since “the amount is very straightforward,” but it would be an easy problem to fix.
“It’s as simple as us adding one more line to the permissions of what they [the committee] can view using the online tool,” he said.
He added that there are some idiosyncrasies with the aggregate account at the beginning of the year, so the committee would need to be prudent in its actions during that time.
“The one thing we will need to work with the treasurer to understand is that the amount will fluctuate during the first few weeks of each semester as students enroll late or withdraw and have their fees refunded,” he said, “so it will be important to hold back around 10 percent from the initial allocation until the dust settles, so to speak.”
Furthering his efforts to make WCSA more “fiscally responsible,” Morris has also redesigned the budget request form student organizations use to solicit funds.
The new form requires an itemized list of each specific expense needed for any event or program. Instead of listing broad categories such as “transportation” or “lodging,” organizations must now determine how much money they need for each item within those groups.
“That’s what we need as budget committee to more effectively and accurately allocate funds to the club or organization,” Morris said.
According to Morris, the new form is “much more streamlined.”
“The previous one had a lot of things to get lost in,” he said. “This is the bare bones of what we need, and we only want the information we need.”
The committee recently granted People Regarding Individual Diversity Everywhere $3,000 to fund a trip to the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Ally College Conference from Feb. 10-12.
PRIDE President Anthony Peddle said he thought the new form made the request process easier.
“It helped us a lot to make sure we allotted enough for each specific thing,” he said.
Sam DeJarnett, vice-president of the Student Union on Black Awareness, disagreed.
“It’s very tedious,” DeJarnett said. “If you’ve never done it before it can be confusing.”
The budget committee recently granted SUBA and Sisters United $3,400 to fund a Feb. 25 event titled “Death of the Diva,” which the two organizations are hosting in conjunction with the Women’s House; the House of Black Culture; Black Men of the Future; and the women’s and gender studies and theatre and dance departments.
“Basically, you have to leave no stone unturned,” said Alexis Williams, former Sisters United vice-president.
In addition to the form, organizations wanting WCSA money must make a presentation of their request before the budget committee to decide if they will recieve funding.
Morris said the primary purpose of the presentations is to thoroughly inform the committee about what it will be funding.
“If we’re unclear on something, instead of granting them zero dollars we’ll ask them to come back,” he said.
Peddle said his presentation was casual and easy.
“We just presented the basic conference necessities, what we want[ed] to do at this conference and what we hope[d] to gain from it,” Peddle said. “It was just an informal conversation so they could learn more about it and make a better-educated decision.”
DeJarnett said her recent presentation for “Death of the Diva” went smoothly, but she has experienced difficulty with procuring funds in the past, especially with regard to SUBA’s annual Step Show.
“Since the beginning of Step Show there’s always been some difficulty,” Dejamett said. “I don’t know whether it’s the concept that’s difficult to grasp or just the allocation of funds in general, but there’s always some miscommunication. I find it weird that it was easy to get $3,400 from WCSA, but these organizations [SUBA, HBC, Sisters United, BMF] struggle all the time.”
In addition to ad hoc presentations for specific events, student organizations are now required to make annual funding presentations each semester, a process previously undertaken only once a year.
Peddle said these proffers do not require the specificity of those for single events.
“The ad hoc budgets are more specific and itemized, whereas the general budgets are more generalized and overviews of events,” Peddle said.
Morris said the committee uses the annual allocations they offer to organizations as a guide when hearing ad hoc proposals.
“If a club is consistently only doing supplemental funding, then we’re like, ‘This club’s not really on the ball,’” he said.