The Student Governing Board and the Activities Board at Columbia have finalized how they will allocate over half a million dollars to student groups for the 2016-17 year, marking the last step in the trickle-down of student activity fees from undergraduate councils.
SGB, which oversees mostly political, religious, identity-based, and activist groups, allocated a total of $256,020 to 96 groups, a 6 percent increase in funding from last year. Meanwhile, ABC—which oversees 160 performance groups, cultural groups, and publications—allocated $288,971, a decrease of less than 1 percent.
The changes in funding from last year correspond to the amounts allocated to SGB and ABC at the Funding at Columbia University event in May. At F@CU, the four undergraduate councils slightly increased SGB’s budget to match rising membership and programming, while keeping ABC’s virtually the same as the previous year.
After F@CU, the two governing boards determine each student group’s funding through a series of internal meetings, during which governing board representatives analyze spending in the past year.
To more efficiently allocate funds to its groups, SGB revamped its application process prior to the start of this year, according to SGB President Karim Nader, CC ’17. Rather than require groups to predict expenses for the year ahead, the board now asks for reflections on the past year’s expenses, after which the group’s SGB representative estimates its budget needs. Groups who demonstrate a need for more funding are granted it, while those deemed to have spent “inefficiently” are penalized.
“This ... allows them [representatives] to look back at purchases and expenses to evaluate how much money a group will need next year,” Nader said. “This proved to be extremely effective in locating groups that have been inactive and that have had leadership issues in the past.”
According to ABC President Alex Li, CC ’17, all past expenditures by student groups were scrutinized to determine efficiency.
For example, ABC docked the group Engineers Without Borders’ budget from $6,000 last year to just $2,750 this year, noting that the group spent $550 on a 20-person dinner and spent $3,000 on a revenue-generating fundraiser.
Similarly, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers budget was reduced from $4,445 to $767 this year after ABC noted it spent its board allocation to travel to a conference that would have been covered by the SEAS Dean's Travel fund.