Student Union Allocations Board publicizes Marathon decision, 1.4 million dollars distributed in club funding
The Justice spoke to A-board co-chairs and club leaders regarding the process that left clubs across campus less than 60% funded, on average.
On Tuesday, April 25, the Student Union Allocations Board emailed the Fall 2023 Marathon final report to club leaders and treasurers. Between first round decisions and appeals, clubs across campus requested a little over $2,912,000 of which $1,476,415 was allocated — this puts club funding across campus at approximately 49% of requested funding.
Club funding comes from a pot of money known as the Student Activities Fee, which is supported by 1% of student tuition, as well as rollover funds not spent the prior fiscal year. When campus life came to a halt in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a substantial amount of unused funds were rolled over to use the following year. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on campus during the 2020-21 academic year, money again went unspent as events were scaled back — if they happened at all. Thus, as campus returned more or less to normal during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years, A-Board had seemingly limitless rollover funding to distribute to clubs, in addition to the normal yearly budgets.
However, the leftover money has dried up, making this semester’s Marathon the first in recent memory with a constrained budget, and clubs are feeling the heat as money they’d previously considered guaranteed went unallocated. Simply, there was substantially less money to go around this funding round than club leaders have experienced during their time here, something that they were by-and-large not aware of until they started receiving decisions. Department of Student Engagement budget analyst Deepa Khatri shared historical data in a May 1 email to the Justice: Compared to this year’s $1,436,374, in spring 2022 $2,173,461 was allocated, $1,789,942 in spring 2021, and $1,670,622 in spring 2020. Khatri added that the SAF is approximately $2.2 million per year.
Turnover in the Department of Student Engagement has also contributed to the delayed communication about the smaller budget. The budget analyst — a full-time staff member responsible for assisting A-Board, Treasury, and secured clubs — turned over in spring 2022, which also coincided with the migration from Presence to CampusGroups for club finance management. For a while, the board was unaware of their total budget, explained A-Board Co-chair Lexi Lazar ’24 in an April 27 interview with the Justice. “We never knew what our budget was; just straight up, no one ever told us. And so, we were previously just like, if something … was an acceptable request per the funding scope, you're getting funding, because we didn't know what our upper limits were.”
Khatri said that she provided A-Board a “rough estimate” of the board’s total budget for allocations early in the semester, followed by a more specific projection in early March. “This approach is consistent with how estimates are used for Student Activity Fee allocations at other institutions, and it better informs A-Board’s decisions,” she added.
Despite the gaps in information, business went along. Lazar explained the Marathon process. First, Khatri determines an appropriate amount to distribute during the first round, reserving an amount for appeals funding. Then, A-Board members comb through requests and deny items that either lack sufficient detail or fall outside of the defined funding scope. For example, clubs are not able to request funding for personal apparel or to spend above designated amounts for giveaway items or to hire independent contractors, such as coaches or speakers.
Rules that are new to this year were also applied in an effort to decrease cost: For example, Lazar said that A-Board no longer funds Canva Pro subscriptions for clubs, nor allows clubs to purchase boba tea as giveaway items — unless especially relevant to an event or club’s purpose — due to its expense. A-Board Co-chair Elisha Gordan ’25 explained that these costs add up to between $100,000 and $200,000, a substantial portion of the budget.
After automatically denying these requests, A-Board then considers clubs with budget requests over $10,000, going line by line to apply policy and achieve a projected funding percentage, Gordon explained. The board then addresses secured clubs and smaller organizations. Once initial decisions are released, clubs can appeal denials. If approved, they will be funded by additional money from the reserve.
Explaining the logic behind funding decisions, Lazar said that the board tends to be more willing to allocate larger dollars to newer organizations since they may have one-time expenses as they get set up. Additionally, the board considers “which clubs have the most reach … which need to do things,” said Lazar. The board then enforces a priority system in which clubs indicate the line items most important to them.
Both Lazar and Gordan emphasized that the board tends to deny requests for items that are not accompanied by a detailed storage plan. Gordan suggested that one purpose of the Shapiro Campus Center reimagination currently underway is to provide clubs with more storage spaces.
With Marathon complete, it will now be up to clubs to make their budgets work for the following year. On average, clubs received approximately 59% of the funds that they requested, though there are outliers on both ends of the spectrum.
Nine groups were fully funded: Astronomy Club, Brandeis Chak De!, the Brandeis Journal of Politics, the Brandeis Official Readers' Guild, the Intersectional Feminist Coalition, Kaos Kids, Proscenium Musical Theatre A Cappella, Starving Artists, and Triskelion. The Journal of Politics and Starving Artists each requested between $1,000 and $1,500, and the other seven requested less than a thousand dollars. Notably, this was the first Marathon for both Starving Artists and Proscenium, following the Student Union Senate’s decision earlier this semester to allow a cappella groups to request and receive funding. Following those fully-funded clubs, nearly 30 others were allocated 75% or more of their requested budgets, all receiving amounts below $5,000.
Seven clubs went unfunded, despite requesting money: the Brandeis Basketball Club, Brandeis German Club, Brandeis Society for International Affairs, Brandeis Taekwondo, Brazilian Student Association, Students Talking About Relationships, and the Archon Yearbook. According to Lazar, the Basketball Club and STAR did not submit requests during Marathon but did submit appeals — an automatic denial. The Brazilian Student Association, Lazar explained, was on probationary status during Marathon and therefore not eligible to request funding. However, they will be eligible to request $1,000 in emergency funding. Lazar also explained that Taekwondo’s initial request was denied and a cheaper estimate requested, which was not submitted. Both the German Club and Society for International Affairs requested funds for a boba giveaway, which was declined under the new funding scope rules — neither submitted appeals.
Archon — a secured organization — proved more complicated, Lazar shared. After failing to respond to outreach from their A-Board representative and submit a budget request by the deadline, the organization ultimately submitted their $65,000 request. However, shortly thereafter, DSE leadership informed A-Board that Archon had no plans for leadership after this academic year and is essentially defunct. This statement was confirmed by Khatri in the same email.
Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps, officially tasked with providing medical care to the Brandeis community, participates in the Marathon process as a secured club. Executive Director Lorrin Stone ’23 explained in an April 28 email to the Justice that the group did not anticipate funding to be an issue and was “shocked when we saw the significant cut” to their budget. BEMCo requested $70,000 in operating funds for 2023-2024, up from $66,000 for the current year due to “state requirements as well as software fees,” per Stone.
Rose Adelman ’24 — treasurer and soon-to-be executive director — added in an April 28 email to the Justice that the increase also accounts for “inflation in medication and equipment/supplies prices” as well as “a handful of new interventions and medications to our service for the upcoming year, including glucagon which costs $500 per dose for diabetic emergencies, i-gels for cardiac arrests, benadryl, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.”
Adelman explained that BEMCo also requested $20,000 to outfit a new vehicle — purchased for the group by Public Safety — to be used as an ambulance. Stone stated that their plan is to apply for CEEF funding to configure the truck appropriately.
Both Stone and Adelman expressed that, due to the allocation shortfall, BEMCo may not be able to afford to replace certain medications, particularly pricier ones such as glucagon and epinephrine. Adelman also noted that “call volume has been up this entire year” due to the class of 2026 being larger than any class in the history of Brandeis.
The Student Sexuality and Information Service, another secured club, faced a similar cut. Financial Coordinator Abby Novia ’24 confirmed in an April 29 email to the Justice that the group requested $69,000, of which only $25,000 was initially approved. After appeals, SSIS’s final budget for 2023-2024 is $30,000 — less than the $50,000 that the group was allocated for the current year. Novia explained that the group plans “to make as many cost saving changes as we can with as little impact to the Brandeis community as possible,” such as finding discount and wholesale opportunities from suppliers and cutting non-essential costs. The group is looking into both CEEF and sexual health organization grants.
Novia emphasized that SSIS is planning to keep all current products in stock at their current price, and that “emergency contraception and condoms will always be available both in [our] office and 24/7 in the vending machine.” She also stated that while the group understands that there was less funding to go around overall, it was “particularly difficult” to discover that SSIS was “apparently prioritized lower than the rest of the secured clubs,” due to the group being funded at the lowest rate of the secured clubs.
Novia explained that SSIS has grown over the past four years, evidenced by “the increased number of products we are selling and the increased number of community members who visit [our] office … In particular, we have seen an ever-increasing demand for emergency contraception, especially within the past year, which is likely due to a post-Roe political climate. Econtra is one of our most expensive and most in demand products … These details, as well as a full, detailed pricing breakdown of all our costs as an organization were submitted to the Student Union A-Board, so they were fully aware of how critical funding is to SSIS right now when they decided to only allocate us 34% of the funds we requested.”
Lazar explained that the decision to allocate the Campus Activities Board $280,000 — compared to their request of $483,385.00 — was due to poor attendance at relatively expensive events. Lazar said that the board allocated $250,000 for Springfest, but wanted to cut back on the “really costly events that people just simply do not come to … that’s either [funding for] one cruise or 20 a cappella groups.” CAB did not respond to requests for comment.
Though the Allocation Board had difficult decisions to make, given that their total budget for distribution ended up being half of what clubs across campus requested, crucial organizations such as BEMCo and SSIS remain committed to their roles within the Brandeis community.