SGA reaches into student organizations’ pockets due to financial “adjustments.”
By: Lane Fahey, Asst. News Editor
Budget constraints are causing Furman’s Student Government Association (SGA) to scramble this academic year.
Twenty percent of the money available for SGA funded student organizations on campus has been cut. Money which would have translated into funding for rafting trips, guest speakers and event awareness.
The money is gone, and is not coming back.
“This year, we’ve had several budgeting -I wouldn’t call them problems- but we were made aware that we were paying for various things that previous councils had not taken into account,” Furman SGA President Jessica Norum said.
As stated on Furman’s website: “The mission of SGA is to be a proactive governing body that represents Furman’s diverse student population and contributes to the positive development of the university community. We are students serving students.”
The association is crucial for student organizations existence on campus- they allocate funds and write the checks for student organizations to operate. Part of every student’s tuition is a $190 bill that goes towards SGA’s budget, this is how on campus organizations are funded. SGA decides how to divide up students’ money around campus, the hope though is that they include students in their decisions.
This year, the budget decreased 20 percent across the board for all SGA funded organizations. Budgeting was originally going to be less, but the work from Treasurer Tucker Erdmann and the SGA executive team led to making the cuts less drastic.
“Our treasurer Tucker Erdmann has done a fantastic job reallocating all these different club’s money,” Norum said. “Originally we would have had to take back 38 percent of everybody’s budget, which is a huge amount, and he has brought that down to 20 percent.”
The budget cuts have come due to major oversights in planning. SGA stated that it is mostly related to unaccounted transportation costs. No comment was made regarding how exactly transportation costs equate to 20 percent of a budget that includes several hundred thousands of dollars if not more
“For the past few years SGA has been unaware of a few large-items that is has been paying out of its budgets.” Erdmann said in an email to student organization leaders. This means that over the past few years SGA has been unable to identify all of the costs in its budget which has led to a significant deficit that the current student body has to deal with.
“We’ve handled it very well. People have been very kind and understanding, and that this was not our fault nor any treasurer in the past’s fault. I think it does put some strain on organizations, but I think that as a community, this kind of stuff happens,” Norum said.
While SGA has been able to manage their own budget changes, several other organizations around campus have been left scrambling to adjust their plans for the year. The 20 percent drop will prevent several clubs from being able to have some of their smaller events as they look for ways to tighten their belts.
FUOC is well known for being a club that brings Furman students to enjoy the beautiful outdoors, especially near Furman and in the Upstate. The club typically has two major trips: a rafting and a skiing trip. These trips will still occur, however FUOC has been forced to cancel some other trips that are typically on the calendar due to budget restraints.
“I think we do have enough for ziplining as well, but we’ll usually do one more big trip and we just don’t have the money for that this year.”
Last week, FUOC had one of their bigger social events of the semester, Rabbit Fest. Three bands performed at the Rabbit Hole, and food, s’mores and drinks were provided. The issue is that many of these events such as Rabbit Fest were planned and budgeted for prior to knowledge of the cuts. This means that across campus organizations will have disproportionate spending early on in the year before they can adjust to their new budget.
Of the $190 student government fee that every student pays, 37 percent goes to SGA. Next in line is FUSAB which receives 36 percent and is included in the organizations that are now dealing with major spending cuts.
However, despite the 20 percent budget cut, FUSAB plans to keep on track for the school year.
“I don’t anticipate there being too much of an issue getting the same kind of caliber of events, or the same quality and quantity of events… I think we will still be able to perform up to speed,” FUSAB President Casey Carrell said.
One of the biggest points of concern for student organization leaders is the lack of conversation that occurred before the budget cuts. SGA is autonomous over their spending. Furman’s student body constitution has given them that right. However, while they are able to change spending as they see fit, it has been suggested that they will communicate to the school as they do so.
In her campaign speech for office Norum spoke of full disclosure between SGA, faculty, and students. A goal mentioned directly was to “insure that students are having a right to have their voices at the table.” Several organization leaders feel as though this has not occurred.
“That [budget cut] was definitely the most disappointing thing and I know this isn’t our student government’s fault at all, but the fact that somebody let something like this slip is pretty frustrating for all of us not just FUOC but for all the SGA funded organizations on campus and I don’t even know if it’s anyone’s fault but it’s just frustrating, and we were pretty bummed,” Marsh said.
FUSAB, however, was outspoken in their support of SGA.“I think he [Tucker] handled it very well and I think SGA as a group was able to handle that super professionally,” Carrell said.
While SGA has encouraged student organizations that feel as though they will not have enough money for the year to apply for money via SGA budget requests, every organization will be under a tighter squeeze this year. There is $16,000 available to be requested but this pot pales in comparison to the cuts that organization are now operating under.