Since the start of the spring semester, the Undergraduate Student Government has been going out of its way to improve its strained relationship with campus clubs and organizations. It’s a noticeable change for USG, and it’s a welcome one.
President Mark Maloof started this trend by issuing an executive order the first week back from break. It called for a review and subsequent revisions to the financial bylaws, which were rewritten over the summer. Maloof said that his decision was based on a number of complaints from student clubs and organizations. The problems some clubs have faced are real and solutions are necessary.
Restrictive caps on how much clubs are able to spend on guest speakers have meant that “mid-sized events,” as Maloof refers to them, have been next to impossible for anyone but the Student Activities Board to hold.
Treasurer Thomas Kirnbauer, who helped write the bylaws, has shown that he is receptive to change. He’s also exhibited his dedication to improving the way USG handles the process in which it assigns budgets to each club by offering to shoulder more work than the previous treasurer did.
The town halls that President Maloof called for were an encouraging sign that USG is actively pursuing better communication with clubs and is genuinely interested in which regulations are causing clubs the most stress.
Unfortunately, the two meetings were sparsely attended, to say the least. At Thursday’s meeting, a Press reporter was the only one to show up besides Treasurer Kirnbauer.
USG certainly could have better advertised the town halls. The dates and times were not posted on their website and if clubs were sent emails containing said information, The Press wasn’t lucky enough to receive one.
Incredibly, USG didn’t shy away after the experience. In a room packed full of club officers, Kirnbauer announced the date of yet another town hall in the hopes that students would show up to this one.
When it was literally a situation of life or death for a few clubs, Kirnbauer and the USG Senate were forgiving and quick to restore clubs’ ability to function. A provision in the financial bylaws, that didn’t exist last year, states that clubs that don’t hold events on campus will be stripped of their funding. When this happened to 15 clubs, the appropriate parties were contacted, a post was made on the USG website and the appeals process was clearly explained.
The senate acted responsibly by realizing that the new bylaws were far from perfect and that newer provisions, like the one affecting these clubs, were not well known. They voted to restore line budget status to each of the clubs, without condition. Kirnbauer helped them apply for new budgets and the senate approved, only opting for a five percent cut to all the clubs they had to restore.
The best idea, proposed by Senator Ryann Williams, would have been a case-by-case examination of why each club was unable to spend money during the fall semester, followed by a determination of if they deserved their full budget back, or if they deserved less. Sadly, the rest of the senate wasn’t interested.
The changes to the budget application process are even more promising, as they offer to systematically improve communication between clubs and the treasurer’s office.
Until this year, USG would meet with clubs once to determine their budget. Clubs would attend a hearing in which they requested a certain amount of money from a committee, and wouldn’t hear back until the final release of the budget for the next year.
Kirnbauer is changing that. His office will be sending clubs a draft budget before their hearings. The hearings wouldn’t be the first time that the two parties would be communicating and it would be a time for them to work out their differences. That’s fairer for clubs, even if it means more work for USG.
Then there’s Campusvine. By replacing Allocate with a far more comprehensive budget management service, USG is setting clubs up for success. The new program is designed to make filling out a voucher like filling out an order form online, complete with drop down menus and all.
What’s more, the program is designed like a social networking site. It has an in-site inbox synced to another inbox of the user’s choice. Club members will be able to communicate more effectively with both each other and USG. They’ll be able to track their vouchers through every step of the process. It’s what clubs needed and now it’s what they have.