SBC Scrambles to Find Money for Student Publications
Many members of student groups and publications were upset when they were denied their funding requests at the final SBC meeting on April 2, after the Student Budget Committee (SBC) ran out of funds for the semester. Members of the SBC said they are currently going through a reassumption process, in which they request that student groups return unspent money and then distribute the leftover money to groups who are still requesting funding.
“On Thursday I sent an email to all student group leaders of active student groups saying, ‘We’re doing this reassumption process; if your group has any unspent funds please let us know ASAP, [and] if we have any agreements where you’re supposed to give us back money, honor that please,’” said Chair of the SBC Cameron Couch ’13. “The goal is to find money—it’s there, it’s hiding.”
Couch said that if groups don’t reply by April 23, the SBC will assume they do not need the funds and will take back unspent money. He said that they currently have $1,100, but he is hopeful that more money will come in. However, he remained unsure of when they will be able to allocate these funds.
“It really all depends on whether other student groups are willing, and have, extra funding to give back to us,” Couch said. “My only fear is that I’m not sure how long [the reassumptions process] will take, and I worry that if the money becomes available the first week of May then it won’t give publications enough time to get their stuff prepared. But hopefully that won’t be an issue, and it will all come in on time.”
Many of the student groups who were denied funding were student publications, including publications like Ostranenie, Void Digest, Historical Narratives, and Hermes. Several editors and writers of these publications said they were concerned that the process for applying for SBC funds did not make sense for them because of the nature of publication printing costs. Members of publications cited the fact that the SBC requires groups to specify exact amounts when applying for funding, while the exact amounts of money that publications will need will remain uncertain until the end of the semester.
“We, as publications, can’t go until the end of the semester because we don’t know exactly how many pages it will be, exactly what materials we’ll be using, what we’re going to be doing in terms of how many pages are in color, what kind of cover we want, and what kind of stock we want to use for the paper,” said Void Digest founding editor Aaron Khandros ’13. “So once we figure that out after all the content has been approved, then we submit to the printer a very specific request for a very specific amount of money.”
Publications that were denied funding are currently unable to print their issues, though editors are hopeful they can get enough funding from the SBC’s reassumption process to print a minimal number of copies. Co-Editor-in-Chief of Historical Narratives Charlotte Robertson ’12 said she was disappointed that the SBC does not have any policies in place to ensure that groups requesting funds at the end of the semester are still given equal opportunities for funding.
“There were no safeguards or warnings put in place by the SBC with regards to publications, and despite the fact that they may have received more funding requests this semester, this negligence remains unacceptable given [that] the nature of production for publications requires that we request funds late in semester,” Robertson wrote in an email to The Argus. “In this regard, the current method of the SBC to allocate funds on a first-come, first-serve basis inherently places publications at a disadvantage.”
Couch said that the SBC will prioritize allocating funds to publications in its reassumption process.
“My goal is to help out publications and groups associated with publications as best as possible, and optimistically, we’ll be able to do that,” Couch said. “I think once they’re helped out, it would be nice to be able to fund other groups, but I don’t feel as pressing of a need to fund other groups as I do for publications.”
Khandros said that another problem with the SBC allocation system is that members assume that academic departments will give more money to publications than they actually do.
“There has to be some sort of reform for how publications ask for money,” Khandros said. “There has to be a system where publications can go to the SBC early in the semester and say, ‘Look, we’re going to print about this much, it will cost about this much,’ so they can set aside about this much money for us once we have an exact number.”
Couch said that the SBC’s lack of funding at the end of the semester is symptomatic of the decision to spend the whole available budget.
“I feel that in the past few years, surpluses have been upwards of $50,000, and that’s, in my opinion, completely unacceptable,” Couch said. “So on my end, I’ve made an effort to spend the money that’s there. One of the things that comes with that is, toward of the end of the year, you have to be more careful with what you’re doing.”
Virgil Taylor ’15, a member of the Hermes Collective, said that Hermes was given funding for its first issue this semester, which came out in March, but that the group was denied funding for the next two issues planned for this semester. The group decided to print a shorter issue of Hermes with its own money. In this abbreviated issue, all the articles were cut off at 200 words.
“[We had] our guerilla-printed ‘We ain’t got no fucking money’ issue,” Taylor said. “We printed that one outside the domain of the SBC and printed it out of pocket as a form of protest.”
He said that, for many students, student publications represent more than just extracurricular activities.
“It sucks when the SBC doesn’t fund an event you’re running, but these magazines are more than events for the people who are part of them,” Taylor said. “They’re big projects that are not only important for their day-to-day extracurricular activities but also, in many ways, for their careers. The opportunity to work on well-funded publications is in many ways priceless.”
Robertson also said that students who work to put together publications for months deserved to see their names in print in the finished product.
“Undergraduate students in the social sciences who are trying to gain legitimate recognition for their work deserve a venue like Historical Narratives, and it will be really unfortunate for all of the selected writers—who have diligently re-edited their work for the journal—if they don’t get to see their work in print,” Robertson wrote. “An SBC student representative has promised to work with the journal in its attempt to requisition unused funds, but I have yet to receive further communication that this effort is going successfully.”
Couch said that the SBC should be critical when approving funding requests, but that there will inevitably be groups who are unhappy with the process.
“I would say, even at the beginning of the semester when you have a lot of money, [we should] be more critical,” he said. “Students pay a $270 fee at the beginning of the year and then expect to receive that amount back. The issue here is that we have some people asking for greater scrutiny when the SBC considers funding requests and some people who think that each student should get his or her $270 back with no questions asked. During our weekly meetings, the SBC tries to find some sort of middle ground between these two positions. Everyone’s going to be angry when money’s involved; that’s something I’ve learned.”
Additional reporting contributed by Editor-in-Chief Alex Wilkinson.