My F-Board Story

Two weeks ago the F-Board handed down some pretty upsetting decisions after marathon. We at Innermost Parts have been examining some these numbers on a case-by-case basis to determine whether or not there were any trends in the allocation of funds, and whether or not a new system needs to be considered. For now, however, I hope to use this post as a forum for club leaders and members to air their grievances.

I’ll start with one of my stories: I’m the treasurer of the Brandeis Democrats, and we asked for $3289.12, divided up as follows:

• Bringing Keith McHenry (Food Not Bombs creator) to campus- Speaking Fee: $500, Subsidized Hotel/Lodging Fee: $50.
• 15 Tickets to See “Waiting For Superman,” a new movie about the DC public school system: $150.
• Bringing Comedy Central’s Jeff Kriesler to Campus: $2500
• Gas Money To Go Campaign for Paul Hodes in New Hampshire, 2 Cars: $89.12.

At first, we only got $150 dollars for the semester. Not even a general grant of $150, but $150 to be specifically allocated for the movie tickets. This was bothersome to me for a number of reasons. First, as they mention in a comment on our request, F-Board claims that “We don’t fund campaigns for politicians, only issues,” meaning that they were not inclined to grant us money to campaign for a Democrat. That’s fine assuming that the same standards are shown to other clubs, but that still leaves us with $3200.
Next, Jeff Kriesler was one of our most successful events of the last year, in the sense that we not only filled a large classroom with members of the Dems, but we also drew in people from all over campus. It seems that as he hasn’t gotten any less funny, the event would promise to be as successful this year, but we weren’t given the chance to bring him back to prove this. Without this, we’re down to $700.

Keith McHenry created Food Not Bombs, a wonderful organization which shuns war and promotes giving free vegetarian meals to the homeless. Since when has poverty been a partisan issue that isn’t worth funding? Is Keith McHenry too radical? SEA, SDS, DFA, and the Waltham Group didn’t seem to think so when they each expressed interest in the event.

That leaves us with the $150 we got for the movie tickets. First of all, this was the one item we did not expect them to cover, as it is expected that college students will be able to afford to go to the movies because they already do so on a weekly basis. We put this in there as a sort of “M&M” clause to make sure that the F-Board actually spent the time to read through our five requests. But clearly they gave it enough thought, and originally decided that it was the only thing worth funding for this semester. We’re a respected political organization on campus which hosts events year round to engage the entire community. In my time alone, we’ve brought Howard Dean to campus, worked a Deval Patrick campaign event which President Obama attended, phonebanked for Martha Coakley and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal, and ran a Haiti Benefit Concert, but all we were enabled to do was see a movie?

So what did we do? We appealed and waited. We asked for more money, and for the $150 already allocated to be converted into a general grant so that we could use it for more than only movie tickets. We got $400 more, most of which I’m betting will go to pay for a portion of Keith McHenry’s asking price. Yet the original request money to be converted to a general grant? Denied. So we take the good and the bad, as we attempt to maximize the potential of a club which this semester has more than doubled in size due to an influx of freshmen and other engaged students. But there are other clubs which didn’t appeal, and still find themselves in financial turmoil, unable to carry out events new and traditional. So I yield the floor to those people. Let’s talk together through our problems and see what comes of it?

A guiding question: Does anyone else feel slighted by fellow students whom we elected to aid our clubs, not restrict them?

The Midnight Buffet — Is It Worth It?

At their last meeting, the Union Senate passed SMR S09-14, which provided funding for this semester’s Midnight Buffet, which will be held on April 29th.  The resolution called for $3650.10, and that total was apparently amended upwards to $3750 during the meeting.

The resolution itself is noteworthy for being over a thousand dollars lower than the traditional $5000 granted from the Senate’s operating budget for the Midnight Buffet.  The decrease was made in deference to the cap on the Union Activities Fee, and I’m pretty sure the additional money was or will be transferred to the F-Board to distribute to clubs during emergency request meetings.  This is a good gesture on the Union’s part to ease the substantial decrease in programming forced upon many clubs, but it’s still less than many people wanted.  While $1250 helps a little bit, the full $5000 would have helped even more.  Should the Midnight Buffet have been canceled in light of the F-Board’s decreased funds?

Those who have argued for cancellation point not only to the SAF but also to the economy in general, claiming that it’s irresponsible to spend so much money on a frivolous event (the Justice editorial page endorsed this perspective).  Clubs could use the money for more substantial events than what North Quad Senator Alex Norris calls the Union’s “Bread and Circus” event.  Giving the whole $5000 to the F-Board would open more of the SAF to the entire student body and take away from the amount that only the Senate has discretion over.

Proponents of the Midnight Buffet point to the event’s universal appeal and long tradition as a campus-wide celebration before finals.  Students deserve a reward after a semester’s worth of work and need something to alleviate the stress of finals.  I’ve heard many people describe the Midnight Buffet as one of their favorite events at Brandeis, and it always draws a huge crowd.  $3750 wouldn’t amount to much money when you consider how many clubs would be asking for a piece of it.   In addition, the Midnight Buffet is mandated by the Union bylaws, and changing the bylaw would make canceling the event a more complicated process than merely not funding it.

While I’ve always enjoyed the Midnight Buffet in the past, I think sacrificing it would be a small price to pay for the benefits of opening more money to the cash-starved clubs.  However, I accept that mine may be the minority opinion, and I ultimately think the event should be funded at the discretion of the student body as a whole.  In the future, I’d like to see the Midnight Buffet removed as a requirement from the bylaw; instead, I think the Senate should engage in more outreach and polling to determine on a semester-by-semester basis if the event is something the community truly wants.  The money being used comes from everyone — it’s only fair that everyone should have a voice.

Money, and Why Your Club Isn’t Getting Any

In the wake of the Finance Board’s marathon decisions, a lot of clubs have been wondering why they got so little money compared to previous semesters.  It’s not the budget situation — the Union Activities Fee is fixed and thus divorced from the budget cuts.  So why is everyone getting less than usual?  Here’s the situation to the best of my understanding (all info courtesy of the Student Union Constitution.  If I’m wrong at any point, feel free to call me out in the comments).

The Union Activities Fee is divided into three separate funds:

  • The Union Government Fund goes to the government, providing the E-Board discretionary, the Senate discretionary, and several other small projects.  From here, we get the newspapers, the bikes, the Midnight Buffet, and a bunch of other government projects.
  • The Justice Printing Expenses Fund goes to the Justice.  To maintain separation between the press and the government, the Justice doesn’t have to go through the F-Board for money.
  • The Finance Board Allocations Fund is by far the largest fund, and it’s the one we’re interested in here.  This is the money that goes to Chartered Union Organizations, which are all chartered clubs.

In the past, the Union Activities Fee has been fixed at 1% of the total tuition.  This meant that inflation wouldn’t affect the Fee, because it would increase along with tuition.  However, that changed as of this year.  The substantial roll-over money that the F-Board had accrued convinced the administration that the Union was getting too much money, and part of the requirements they set for allowing us to keep the roll-over and build the new weight room was that a cap was to be placed on the UAF.  Thus, when tuition increased over last summer, the UAF stayed where it was last year.

Unfortunately, the economy didn’t.  As the cost of living has gone up, exacerbated by the recession, the money that the F-Board has to allocate isn’t going as far as it used to.  It’s my understanding that the F-Board allocated money as they usually would during the fall semester, which is why no great changes were felt.  However, that has left them with a smaller pot than ever before for the spring.  Hence, across the board, activities that deserve to be funded have not gotten the money they deserve.

Solving the problem is as simple as convincing the administration to remove the cap on the UAF.  The budget crisis may complicate that, but the increase would be a relative drop in the bucket to the shortfall we’re facing.  More importantly, we need to assure them that the roll-over won’t happen again.  Responsibility for the roll-over is somewhat complex and is shared between past F-Boards and clubs that didn’t spend all their allocations.  However, last year’s treasurer Choon Woo Ha instituted several reforms to ensure that the problem wouldn’t repeat itself; I’m very hazy as to what exactly they are, but probably has more information if you’re interested.

In short, the problem isn’t with the current F-Board or the current Treasurer, Max Wallach (who I know from personal experience to be very thorough and good at his job).  Let’s hope that the UAF cap is removed, and clubs will once again be able to get the funding they deserve.