USG Senate approves controversial funding
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013 00:10
A budgeting miscalculation that left a $3,729.24 deficit in the Undergraduate Student Government financial plan two weeks ago has been accounted for, and the organization’s budget is cushioned by a surplus.
One of USG’s key responsibilities is allocating a portion of their overall budget – which was over $1 million this semester – to Tier II on-campus organizations, which range from club sports to cultural groups.
The deficit was originally the result of a miscommunication with the UConn Bursar’s Office. The office handles the organization’s revenue, which is made up of student fees.
Originally USG comptroller Claire Price was given the revenue expected from all currently enrolled students. However, not all students had paid their fees when the budgeting was done.
But the problem will be addressed as student fees continue to roll in throughout the semester, and an additional $9,961 augmented the budget last week after Tier-II groups that received USG funding in the spring returned their surpluses.
The returned money goes into USG’s “reserve fund,” which is a portion of the organization’s budget that on-campus organizations can apply for outside of the regular funding process on an “emergency” basis. The total balance is currently around $50,000, according to Price.
At Wednesday’s meeting, USG Senators approved bills allocating $7,775 of the reserve funds to two organizations: UConn Club Boxing and UConn Honors Council.
The senators approved legislation allocating $4,575 to the UConn Honors Council by an 18-13 vote to send five students to the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in New Orleans on Nov. 6. The funds would cover a portion of hotel and travel expenses for the group.
Honors Council’s CFO, S’ha Siddiqi CFO, said the group was only made aware of their invitation to attend the event in April this year, which made making the March 25 funding application deadline last semester impossible.
The group’s original request for $5,358.56 was cut down. Senators typically attempt to mirror funding board policies, which stipulate travel expenses be funded at 65 to 75 percent.
However, with limited time to fundraise, the group would not be able to attend the conference with only $1,917.50 of USG funds. Senator Justin Clark proposed the $4,550 amount as a compromise.
Siddiqi said the group will give five presentations to faculty and students from other universities around the country at the conference.
“One of the topics that we’re speaking on would be how to lead an affective student organization,” she said. “Another will discuss admissions for students who have less than optimal GPAs, but may be able to contribute something else to campus.”
But Comptroller Price said overriding funding board’s policies is irresponsible. Price has the ability to veto the legislation and said she “strongly disagrees” with it, though she said she has not made up her mind yet on whether or not she will reject it.
“It is imperative we spend our money in a fiscally responsible manner and we do that by following the policies we have set in place,” Price said. “If we do change the policies to fund this group, it’s not fair to any of the other groups who were funded at 65 or 70 percent and weren’t able to go to senate to advocate for more.”
Funding Board Chair Parth Rana backed Price up, saying violating funding board policies sets a dangerous precedent.
“This is something that can really quickly open up a can of worms down the way,” Rana said to the senators while debating the legislation. “What we did today might or might not have ramifications.”
But Senator Kevin Alvarez disagreed.
“We have the prerogative to do this and we should be doing this,” Alvarez said. “Our job is to fund groups and give people the opportunity to go out and represent UConn and put this university in a positive light.”
UConn Boxing Club received $3,200 to stipend their coach, Lawrence Thompson, who has worked with the club for three years without pay. The Boxing Club was denied funding during the regular funding session because the group’s CFO at the time never passed the Funding Mastery Test, a requirement of receiving USG funds.
The USG Funding Board has apportioned $283,818.90 of its more than $650,000 budget this semester to organizations that have applied for funds for next semester via the regular funding process.
But funding board is the only USG committee that has spent a significant portion of its budget, and Comptroller Price urged senators and committee chairs to find worthy causes for their funds.
“I would like to remind everyone that we’re already halfway through the semester,” Price said. “Students pay this money and they trust us to spend it. If we’re not spending it, we’re not doing our jobs.”