Club leadership nervously pored over the USG budget on Saturday morning, hoping that their budget was cut by a high enough percent to apply for more funding. New guidelines and unusually sharp budget cuts forced the students at Stony Brook University’s annual Leadership Conference to discuss what their year would look like with significantly fewer or smaller events.
“We’d have to sacrifice Boston if we wanted to get better club space,” said Kashiem Brown, President of Animated Perspective, of a trip the club usually takes. Brown acknowledged that buying new couches would affect more people. Club leaders were having similar conversations throughout SAC Ballroom A, as only a handful of clubs managed to avoid budget cuts this year.
Although the Stony Brook University clubs receive funding from Student Activity Fees, the USG’s equivalent of taxes, their situations are more similar to private businesses with a large competitor than agencies in a cash-strapped government. While the overall USG budget shrank by $40,000 from last year, funding to the Student Activities Board–which is responsible for holding large events like last May’s Bruno Mars concert–skyrocketed by $137,000.
USG cut the 136 student clubs with line budgets by a combined total of $117,000. The $60,000 missing in the equation returned to clubs and organizations after that amount of last year’s budget was spent on renovating the Student Activity Center Commuter Commons.
Nolan Theodore, an e-board member of the LGBTA, learned that clubs could only apply for Fall revisions–a process by which cut funding is restored–if their budget had decreased by more than 40 percent. The LGBTA’s budget was slashed by 37 percent.
“We have a problem,” Theodore said as his eyes widened, trying to get the attention of another member of the club.
“The LGBTA gives something to the campus no other club can,” said Theodore of the budget cuts. “It’s sad for Stony Brook; we could bring so many great speakers here.”
USG officials spent little time explaining why there was less money for clubs this year. Instead, Treasurer Tom Kirnbauer and Vice President of Student Life Allen Abraham gave a powerpoint on the rules for how clubs could spend their money, of which there were more than ever before, thanks in part to a lawsuit filed against USG last year.
The $2,000 limit per guest speaker drew the most questions and groans from the crowd. Theodore raised his hand to point out that diversity clubs would be hurt the most by the new policies, as SAB spends almost exclusively on mainstream entertainment.
By the end of the slideshow, pointed questions and comments like Theodore’s had replaced the requests for clarification the two USG officials had to field at its start.
“Why doesn’t SAB have to abide by these rules?” asked one attendee.
“Can we reverse that?” asked another after learning about SAB’s budget increases.
But the crowd never became unruly, though it did buzz for a few mintues when Kirnbauer declined to publicly answer questions about SAB’s budget, which was overdrawn by $40,000 the previous year, affecting this year’s club budgets.
When the leadership conference let out close to five hours after it started, most students were frustrated and some angry.
For Joe Imbrogno, Vice President of Chemical Engineers Society, the new bylaws meant more paper work and possibly lost opportunities. “We need to apply for a grant this semester,” said Imbrogno. “Our whole club relies on going to these conferences.”