In analyzing Spring 2015 budget allocations, the numbers speak for themselves. Almost.
$413,890 — the amount of money that Fordham’s budget committee had available to distribute for the Spring 2015 semester. 77 — the number of clubs requesting funding for that semester. Zero — the number of political speakers funded by the budget committee.
Zero is also the amount of funds that referendum clubs are required to make transparent.
Among the 10 clubs with referendum status is Fordham’s Campus Activities Board. CAB takes up 42 percent of the available club funds. It is student run, but CAB also works closely with Alanna Nolan, assistant dean of student leadership and community development.
“CAB is held to a high standard by the department, and they simultaneously hold themselves and each other to important goals, deadlines, and accountability,” said Nolan. “While the group greatly contributes to regular programming, a lot of their behind the scenes work and effort may go unnoticed.”
The behind-the-scenes work largely stays that way due to the fact that CAB, like other referendum clubs, is not required to provide a breakdown of its budget.
“I have no doubt that the work done by CAB is extraordinary and they are far and away one of the most important organizations on campus,” said Michael Billotti, president of College Democrats and a member of the budget committee. “They do hold themselves to high standards and I think the university benefits greatly from their hard work. However, I still have issues regarding the lack of transparency with their budget.”
When asked if CAB would consider making their budget transparent, Nolan declined comment.
The Campus Activities Board is the primary programming entity on the Rose Hill campus and an extension of the Office of Student Leadership and Community Development. Shannon Driscoll, assistant director for student organizations and programming, serves as its advisor. She is also an advisor of the budget committee.
CAB consists of nine committees, each of which handles specific areas of programming, which include American Age, Cinevents!, Comedy Committee, Cultural Affairs, Publicity, Rodrigue’s Coffee House, Special Events, Weekend Activities Committee (WAC) and General Board. The club’s mission is “to provide high quality social, cultural, educational and informational programming that appeals to all interests within the student community.”
Due to its unique nature as an organization, CAB finds itself under scrutiny from other clubs that not only receive significantly less funding than CAB does, but also have to abide by somewhat more nuanced rules. For example, the budget committee does not allow funding to be allocated to anything exclusive in nature, such as club outer gear. However, CAB is allowed to use a portion of its funding funding to buy sweatshirts for its members, which has sparked criticism from members of some clubs.
“[Sweatshirts] are not simply ‘swag…’ they are needed for the week of programming that is actually Spring Weekend,” Nolan said. “Attendance at these events during the weekend can range from 3,000 to upwards of 5,000 attendees…this allows for clear identification during high-volume, fast-paced events with thousands of people.”
“This is similar to how the community will see many Fordham employees working that weekend wearing maroon polo shirts for the same reason,” Nolan added.
Such strict guidelines are necessary, as there are only limited resources to share among all the clubs on campus. Fortunately for some, not all allocated funds are utilized by the end of the semester.
According to Nolan, funds that are not used by a club are rolled over back to the Budget Committee Student Activities Fee portion of the budget at the beginning of each semester — not including funding that is fundraised or self-generated. However, when asked whether CAB rolls over its unused money, Nolan once more declined to comment.
At first glance, the final budget numbers allocated to clubs can appear deceptive. This year saw an increase in money available to clubs coupled with significant budget cuts for many, most notably the College Democrats and Republicans. USG voted on an increase for the student activities fee from $120 to $135 effective this academic year, which is the fund from which the budget committee uses to distribute funding for clubs and other OSLCD activities.
“If one is only looking at the amount of money allocated on Budget Day, one might think there is less money allocated to clubs…this is not true,” Nolan said in an email. “A portion goes to the Budget Committee for Budget Day, and once the enrollment number is finalized in the semester, the remaining funds are provided to the Budget Committee during the semester.”
These numbers are currently not reported on the USG website, where the budget allocations for the semester are reported.
“We recommend…to make the number given to the Budget Committee during the semester be more public than the email that goes out to the club leaders notifying them,” Nolan added. “We plan to work with USG on this endeavor.”
Nolan states that the flow of funding in the beginning of the semester allows for clubs that made errors in budget packets to apply again for funding, as well as allow funding to be available to new clubs that develop throughout the year and new programs that clubs might want to start after Budget Day has passed. This year, that list included ten clubs including Flipside, Fordham Experimental Theatre, Fordham Flava, Fordham University South Asian Entity, Images, Operation Dreamcatcher, Polish Cultural Exchange, Project Sunshine, Sláinte: Fordham Irish Dance and the Satin Dolls.
On Budget Day this past December, the budget committee, headed by chair-person Kara Norton, made executive decisions on which clubs should receive what amount of the budget allocated, including decisions for across-the-board cuts. Such cuts resulted in the absence of financing for political speakers on campus and the withholding of all funding for certain organizations. Norton did not return emails sent by The Fordham Ram regarding the most recent budget allocations.
Clubs receive 70 percent of all the funding garnered by the student activities fee. The remaining 30 percent goes to student leadership programs such as Leadership Weekend, Fordham University Emerging Leaders program.
In part, it enables students to attend national conferences, such as the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference and the National Association for Campus Activities conference, and funds institutional events, such as Family Weekend, Spring Weekend, Senior Week. It is also allocated to operate OrgSync, the online content management system, buy general supplies and resources for student organizations and fund part of the Readership Program, which provides newspapers on campus.
Lastly, certain staff positions within Student Life are paid for with the remaining thirty percent.