Student Government Organizations were allocated $77K that they did not spend, while clubs remain underfunded
Every year, the Notre Dame Student Union splits over $900,000 between Student Government organizations, clubs, and other student groups. This allocation process occurs twice per year—during the winter and spring—with over 90% of the funds allocated in the spring. These allocations are approved by the Financial Management Board (FMB), an organization whose voting members are composed of the Treasurers and Financial Controllers from various Student Government organizations.
It should not come as a surprise that the largest Student Government organization whose mission is event programming—the Student Union Board—did very well at the allocation when compared to other groups with similar missions. During the 2019 spring allocation, SUB received funding equivalent to 77% of its projected expenses, enough to comfortably execute its planned programming for the upcoming year. At the same time, student clubs were allocated a meager 16% of their projected expenses—the bare minimum that the Student Union Constitution requires Student Government leaders give to clubs.
Student Government leaders have determined that their own programming efforts are more important than those of the over 400 undergraduate student clubs at Notre Dame. In doing so, they are placing themselves ahead of the average student at Notre Dame, working within a system that is designed so that Student Government groups can use the majority of available resources to their own ends. This is not only a disgrace because clubs commit so much of their time and effort to providing students with the vast majority of their social programming outside of dorm life, but also because the Notre Dame Student Union does not actually spend a large quantity of money that it allocates to itself.
On Wednesday, September 25, it was revealed to the Notre Dame Student Senate that $77,000 of funds allocated to branches of the Student Union had gone unspent during the 2018-2019 academic year. In essence, Student Government leaders had decided that money would be better allocated to Student Government groups than to clubs, even though these very same Student Government groups could not actually find ways to spend all of their money. At the same time, clubs are left with large funding gaps, occasionally jeopardizing their ability to perform their core tasks and functions.
As a club leader on campus, and as a Division Chair on the Club Coordination Council (CCC), I am deeply disappointed in the outcome of this process. Anyone with common sense can tell you that there are better ways to allocate funds to student groups than one that creates tens of thousands of dollars of Student Government waste. Instead of simply trusting that Student Government leaders will create a system that ensures that clubs will be equitably funded, club leaders must band together and make our voices heard loud and clear. Clubs deserve respect they have not been getting, and a system in which a system that treats both Student Government groups and clubs equally.
Our campus community needs to have an authentic and open conversation about the role that clubs play in shaping the Notre Dame experience. Knowing that 92% of Notre Dame’s students are in at least one club, we must come to reevaluate how our campus prioritizes its spending on student events.
We must seek to remove systemic issues that transcend the structure of the allocation process. Student Government groups currently must come to a two-thirds majority agreement as to how to split the funds amongst themselves. The tens of thousands of dollars in allocations that Student Government groups have let lay waste demonstrate that this system is broken. To better ensure fiscal responsibility, and to promote the ability for clubs to conduct their events, the Student Union must change its fiscal policy.
The wasted money could have and should have been directly allocated to clubs who wanted to put on events, rather than to wasteful Student Government organizations. To this end, clubs must be guaranteed a significantly higher amount of funds during the Student Union allocation processes. This will help to mitigate a portion of the excessive budget constraints that many clubs face, while encouraging Student Government organizations to more fairly allocate funding in a way that reduces budget bloat.
Achieving this goal will be no small task. It will require passionate students to talk to their dorm senators to demand that all stakeholders be held accountable. It will require Student Government organizations to be willing to take a hit to their top line. But, in the end, the student body will win out, and clubs will get the funding they deserve.
Michael Dugan is a junior majoring in Computer Science and Economics who is a Co-Chair of Junior Parents Weekend, a member of the Junior Class Council, and the Special Interest Division Chair of the Club Coordination Council. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.