Originally published in The Mac Weekly.
Life can be hard for an FAC Chair. Mac McCreary ’12, the chair of
student government’s Financial Affairs Committee (FAC), was explaining
some of the jobs his successor would have to deal with.
“You get to deal
with pleasant little interactions with appeals processes,” he said.
“It’s a difficult job.”
Kate Hamilton ’13, his successor, sighed.
Every semester, the FAC pores through over a
hundred student org budgets to allocate funding to deserving events. The
process can be delicate.
“I don’t know if there is such a thing as a
successful budget,” McCreary said. “I think so much of it is kind of a
crapshoot to see how things work out–trying to keep people happy but
making it fair as well.”
Next semester, Macalester College Student
Government (MCSG) anticipates receiving $124,000 from the student
activities fee. Of that sum, $15,000 will go toward the travel fund; the
rest will be allocated to student orgs. Thus far, $72,801 has been
allocated to the 106 student orgs MCSG chartered for the fall.
originally set a goal of $60-65,000 for the budgeting process, but a
higher-than-usual number of student orgs submitted well-planned events
“[Many] fewer people got rejected this time around. More
orgs got a higher percentage of what they requested from last semester,”
McCreary said. “Last semester pretty much everyone saw cuts.”
Nevertheless, this year’s budget is smaller than in past years. This
semester, about $85,000 was budgeted to student orgs.
Firmer rules now
guide the budgeting process. At last week’s MCSG meeting, the
legislative board approved bylaws to formalize some of the guidelines
under which FAC has already operated.
“I think the process with
additional allocations will be a little more straightforward now,”
Among the changes are caps on certain types of funding
for student orgs. For example, the FAC will “consider funding up to $5
per person for clothing,” and “up to $10 per person for meals.”
were a common request in the fall student org budgets. Among those
groups requesting t-shirts were Team Asia, FIA/STARSA, MacDems and
Students for a Free Tibet. Although funding for t-shirts can be provided
up to $5 per student, none of the requests were approved.
under the impression that the t-shirts were for using them for an event,
representing the organization during canvassing drives, and other
campaign events and activities in the fall to represent not only the
Obama campaign but Macalester in the greater community,” said Zach Avre
’14, a co-chair of MacDems. “The school can be smart about where they
spend their money. There are a lot of other awesome events and
activities, I don’t think shirts are a priority,” he said.
lost funding for an event with an Obama campaign surrogate in the fall;
they were approved for only $20 of the requested $740.
A new set of
rules also governs alumni networking events. Previously, funding for
such events was decided on an ad hoc basis. Such events often featured
coffee with alumni or a larger meal. Now, only a maximum of $100 will be
provided for these events.
“We understand that alumni are coming
after-hours or during their lunch break,” Hamilton noted. “Food [and]
coffee could be a facilitator to conversation.”
The FAC decided that
$100 could provide sufficient funding for light snacks and coffee at
alumni networking events, if not pizza. Nevertheless, McCreary
acknowledged that the restriction was ‘micro-managey’ on the part of the
“[These events] work a lot better if you are up and moving around
instead of sitting at a table with the same five or six people for an
hour,” he said.
Last semester saw particular conflict over funding for
food. The new bylaws specifically codify the FAC’s limitations on such
expenditures. Funding is only permissible “when food is integral to the
event and adds a substantive piece to the event,” they read. “Food
cannot be strictly for the purpose of gaining attendance to an event.
The FAC will not fund food for events that are specifically for a
celebration within the org that does not contribute to the campus at
large and is not in the org’s charter.”
“I just realized end of the
semester dinners are dead,” McCreary said. “Or at least they require a
suspension of the bylaws.”
The legislative board of MCSG is the ultimate
arbiter of how student activity fee dollars are distributed. The FAC
will present its budget for public discussion at this Tuesday’s MCSG
meeting. There, student orgs can appeal their budgets before approval by
the entire body.
Further, requests not included in the FAC budget may
be requested later through the additional allocations process. The
limits placed by the FAC on the fall 2012 budget leave about $40,000 for
additional allocations–twice as much as the last fall and spring
semesters, according to McCreary.
For his part, Avre plans to discuss
appealing their budget with the other leaders of MacDems. He says the
group will likely rely on additional allocations to fund its events in
the fall. Planning for its prospective speaker from the Obama campaign
will probably be easier closer to the event.
“It can be difficult to
plan events, especially sometimes with speakers if they are still
sometimes up in the air… the type of event definitely plays into how
much one can be prepared,” Hamilton said. “It’s kind of nice to see some
amount of foresight in the budget, but it is really hard to do it so
hard in advance."