A-Board meets 61 percent of club requests
Club funding this year is down across the board, as the University had less money to give out to a larger number of clubs. However, funding has also been inconsistent, with some clubs receiving their full requested budgets, and others receiving none, according to budget documents sent out to the club leaders listserv.
The Allocations Board is responsible for deciding club budgets based on requests submitted through the online budgeting program, Student Union Management System. After club leaders have submitted their budget requests, the A-Board independently goes through the budgets during “marathon sessions” and decides which requests have enough merit to be funded. The A-Board then releases these budgets to all club leaders and opens an appeals process for clubs that feel their requests were unfairly denied to argue their cases. After these appeals marathons close, budgets are finalized for the semester, according to A-Board chair Alex Mitchell ’17.
This year, the A-Board had a particularly difficult job, as the requested funding for chartered clubs, not including secured clubs, was $314,185.50. The A-Board was able to fulfill $190,974.31, or 60.78 percent of those requests, in comparison to $311,203.19 fulfilled of $361,862.80 last year — an 86 percent fulfillment rate, according to budget documents from the fiscal years of 2015 and 2016. This was due to several factors, including more clubs requesting funds and less rollover funds being available from last year. Some of the allocated budget was also earmarked for secured clubs, the Student Union and the Sustainability Fund, according to Mitchell's email.
The reasoning behind certain clubs receiving funding for events and others not is unclear in the club budget documents, as some clubs do not have reasons given for the cuts. The Guitar Club requested funding for an acoustic guitar and case but was denied without any reason given, according to the 2016 club budget documents. The Brandeis Farmers’ Club and Brandeis Ensemble Theater both had requests denied due to “budget [being] too tight this year,” according to club budget documents.
The A-Board does have policies in place to guide clubs requests, including policies that discourage funding for giveaways, and do not allow funding for “swag” or personal purchases, according to Mitchell. However, when the budget is tight, as it was this year, the A-Board must make decisions as to what to cut, Mitchell said in an interview with the Justice.
“I think one of the biggest things is that its kind of an arcane process, people don’t really know how decisions are made. We do have like a strict list of criteria, but it does come down to us having to make some judgment calls,” Mitchell said in an interview with the Justice.
Another area Mitchell said the A-Board tried to crack down on was giveaways and “frivolous requests” such as alcohol-based events. Mitchell said that alcohol-based events cost “a ton of money, and a lot of staff and resources being used for an event that more than half the student body can’t go to, or can't take part in.” Therefore it has been an “unwritten rule” that only Student Events can host them. He added that while he has never approved alcohol-based events for any other clubs, the only other times they have happened have been “certain rare exceptions” when someone in the club had a friend on the A-Board, according to Mitchell.
In an Oct. 18 email to club leaders he clarified for the appeals process that, “We will very seldom fund giveaways for any club. If we denied it in the first round, we will deny it again.” This held true in most cases when giveaway requests were denied, according to the budget documents, but there were several cases where giveaways were approved, including for Black Lives Matter bracelets requested by the Black Students Organization and stickers requested by the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance that read “This is what a Brandeis feminist looks like.” Among giveaways denied were T-shirts and shot measurers for Peers Educating About Responsible Choices; and Amnesty International and Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee on the grounds of the no-giveaway policy, though the documents did not specify what the giveaways were.
Mitchell also targeted several other areas that he felt were wasteful of funds. One specific type of event he tried to eliminate was the “Wake and Shakes,” a morning event in which Student Events offers coffee and donuts to passersby.
He said that the A-Board had access to Student Events surveys that showed that Wake and Shakes were unpopular, adding, “I know that personally, the last thing I want at 9 in the morning is someone blaring music at me when I'm trying to get to class, and that seemed to be the consensus view of people. I talked to about 20 people that I know personally and I don’t think anyone actually was a big fan of them.”
“I was surprised that we weren’t allocated any money for Wake and Shakes, because we’d never had a negative experience with them,” Executive Director of Student Events Jeremy Cohen ’16 said in an interview with the Justice. He added that the survey Mitchell cited did not, in fact, have a question specifically about whether people liked the Wake and Shake events. He added in an email to the Justice that in the general comment section, Wake and Shakes were mentioned only 13 times, with two negative responses.
According to Cohen, Student Events requested a $300,000 budget for the year, as they received $280,000 for fiscal year 2015, but received about $157,000 before the appeals process, in which they were granted about $21,000 of their requested $43,000 appeal. This resulted in a received total of 59.33 percent of their requested budget. However, the documents provided to the club leaders listserv were incomplete and did not verify this information.
Mitchell said that another “frivolous” request was from WBRS for an all-expenses paid trip for two people to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.
WBRS General Manager Harris Cohen ’16 wrote in an email to the Justice that WBRS only requested funds for airfare and festival tickets “similar to the funding that many clubs get when they ask to go to conferences that benefit their club.” He added that it would provide an important networking opportunity in order to bring bands to perform on campus in the future.
Student Union President Nyah Macklin ’16 wrote in an email to the Justice, “We as students have to understand the sheer amount of time and effort that goes into being a member of A-Board. It is the only position within the Union that does just as much as I do as the Student Union President and also does so with everyone constantly unhappy with their choices.”
However, Macklin later added, “Transparency is key to our relationship with students. If we are open about what has the possibility of being funded by A-Board, clubs would stop feeling blind[sided] by the fact that a large event they had planned has now been denied because of ‘scope’ for example. And with transparency comes trust. The trust our students have in our A-Board and us as elected Union representatives is vital to the operations and progress of the Union.”
When asked about the A-Board process, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Activities Stephanie Grimes wrote in an email to the Justice, “We don't feel it is appropriate for the administration to comment on the allocations made by students. We do encourage our student leadership to continuously evaluate the process, and the degree to which the allocation of student funds are conducted fairly, in the best interest of our community, and in alignment with community values.”
—Avi Gold contributed reporting.