Organizations see budgets reduced

In case this year’s 103 student groups did not meet the student body’s needs, 26 new organizations are looking for a piece of the student activities fee.

The groups include a variety of cultural groups, sports groups, and two big event groups, according to Joint Funding Committee (JFC) chair Nicholas Scocozzo, a senior in chemical and biological engineering. This increase could result in an increase for Carnegie Mellon’s student activities fee.

“If we continue to see an upward trend in the number of organizations and group activities and a downward trend in our surplus every year, then I think a referendum could be realistic,” said Gina Casalegno, the director of Student Activities.

The committee released its first round of budget recommendations last Tuesday. The recommendations are in response to the initial requests of over 129 student groups. The JFC, responsible for administering University funds to student organizations, received a record $1.3 million in requests from various groups on campus. According to Scocozzo, JFC bylaws require that no more than $500 be given to new groups. Groups that have been around prior to requesting JFC funding can bypass this provision.

Scocozzo added that the JFC had to reduce the $1.3 million in requests down to $974,282.38, the total amount allocated from the Carnegie Mellon student activities fee for various University organizations.
The Joint Funding Committee is composed of 11 members. The student vice-president for Finance must serve, according to the Committee’s bylaws. The undergraduate and graduate finance chairs, the Graduate Student Assembly chair, the Student Senate chair, and six elected members comprise the rest of the committee.

Each member of the JFC represents approximately 12 groups. As a representative, the JFC member is responsible for presenting and explaining the budget proposals to the entire committee. Generally, the six elected members are Student Senate members. Currently, there are five undergraduates and one graduate student in this delegation, according to Scocozzo.

The JFC is forced to make some difficult cutting decisions as a result of the influx of new groups.
“They want to cut four issues of readme,” said senior lighting design major Andrew Moore, chair of the Activities Board (AB). readme is Carnegie Mellon’s weekly student-run satire magazine.

“Ira Glass more than sold out McConomy Auditorium; Ian Mackaye filled Doherty 2210. There were people sitting in the aisles. We are bringing events that people want to see,” Moore said.

AB is one of the largest groups on campus with 11 subgroups, including AB Lectures, Concerts, and Films. Both AB Political Speakers and Concerts have seen cuts of about $7000 to their budgets, while AB Films saw a budget increase from last year, according to Moore.

“Bands that are coming through here, by contract won’t use our equipment. By purchasing new equipment, we don’t have to spend on rentals. If we don’t get that funding, the acts won’t be as exciting or well-known,” Moore said.

Scocozzo claims the amount spent on events during Carnival, Carnegie Mellon’s annual spring celebration, will not decrease.

“There is so much inherent value in that,” he said. “What is the time you remember most at Carnegie Mellon? It’s always Carnival.”

For the 2005–2006 school year, almost half of students’ money went to Carnival, concerts, and movies; community service, support, and advocacy groups were earmarked for 3.7 percent of these funds. Scocozzo would not comment on the nature of the groups receiving cuts this year.

“I think our cultural groups are under-resourced for what they bring to campus,” Casalegno said.
Jennifer Church, the newly instated dean of Student Affairs, attributed the cutbacks entirely to the new groups.

“This is a pretty significant increase in Student Organizations,” Church said. “The campus is always evolving and changing. Our ability to ebb and flow is a critical part of the campus community.”

Church also discussed a referendum process: If the JFC sees the need to raise the student activities fee by five percent, more than the usual Consumer Price Index-based increase meant to offset inflation, it must get permission from the University Board of Trustees to put the issue up to a University-wide referendum.

“If students make a strong case, then [a raise in the fee] is likely, but it is hard when you’re rolling a surplus of $50,000 a year,” Casalegno said, referring to unspent funds that were allocated to organizations from year to year. For the past several years, unspent funds have ranged from $50,000 to $80,000.

“I haven’t heard of any interest for a referendum from students,” said Casalegno.

Church claimed that it has been a number of years since the last referendum.

“We should look at groups that are very successful. There is money to go around, but what I think we need to do is look at what the other options are for fundraising,” Church said.

Moore expressed a desire to see an increase in the student activities fee.

“I think that there needs to be more money in the pot. Five dollars won’t hurt anyone, but it will make a big difference,” he said.