Fiscal Faux Pas

The Editorial Board weighs in on the sometimes questionable way that financial matters have been handled by A.S. Council in recent years. 

Another year, another A.S. Council budget crisis. It seems like just yesterday that student organizations were up in arms over budgeting shortfalls under the office of the previous VP Finance and Resources Sean O’Neal. The programming budget allocated toward funding campus organizations registered under the Center for Student Involvement had been exhausted by April 2014, placing events like cultural graduation ceremonies in jeopardy through no fault of their own. Needless to say, the public outcry was formidable and Council ultimately voted to transfer $60,000 from its own Mandated Reserves to make up for the shortfall. However, it appears they have failed to learn from past mistakes, as current VP Finance Igor Geyn announced early last week that A.S. Council’s programming allocations had again been exhausted, in effect tabling all further requests for the rest of this academic year.

This eerily similar predicament is especially surprising given that A.S. Council had set aside $430,000 specifically for student organization events, which was substantially more than last year. According to Geyn, the Office of Student Organizations received an unprecedented number of requests for over $747,000 in A.S. programming funding, compared to the previous year’s 439 requests for $601,000. Although A.S. Council had been scrutinizing Funding Guide submissions more closely this year, Geyn attributes the recent spike in requests to outreach events that A.S. Council had been holding to educate student organizations on how to properly request programming funds. 

While the Editorial Board understands the difficulty of maintaining a balanced budget whilst also supporting as many campus orgs as possible, A.S. Council simply cannot let financial crises become the norm. We commend Geyn, AVP Tristan Britt and their respective office’s efforts to thoroughly document the situation and formulate creative, longer term solutions, but the fact remains that countless student orgs may not have the necessary funds to hold any further events this year without A.S. support. 

A.S. Council has thus far been unwilling to withdraw money from its Mandated Reserves. Those funds are carefully guarded in case of “rainy days,” but when A.S. Council cannot fulfill one of its major responsibilities — to support UCSD student orgs — it’s hard to think of a more pressing emergency. Last year’s expenditures left the reserves depleted and Geyn understandably wary, although that only leaves AVP offices or college councils, all of which seem unlikely to be able to contribute much in the way of funding. Council members also recently shot down a suggestion to raise student activity fees to help bolster the floundering budget, an idea which would likely be met with pitchforks and torches after the other fee increases this year.

The finance office cannot tackle the shortfall alone. We will need all members of A.S. Council to work with one another to think of immediate fiscal actions that can be taken. If Council is unwilling or unable to contribute any further allocations this year, it must devise other alternatives to make sure that student orgs are not left to fend for themselves. It’s fair to say that we who pay such high student fees deserve to have a suitable budget for events. Finding out what can be cut will be an unpleasant but necessary reality; may we suggest taking a second look at the $22,500 quarterly pancake breakfasts? And perhaps college councils should take a more proactive role in funding large events that their respective constituents could stand to benefit from. 

We also hope that the future finance controller will continue to work more openly with the Student Life Business Services Office to ensure that clerical errors, such as the one that overlooked $80,000 in additional money until recently, will not happen again. Geyn believes there’s not much that sum would have been able to do, but issues like these imply a disconnect between our student leaders and their administrative counterparts. We consider it fortunate that Geyn was able to catch the error. Whether the position is elected or appointed, we hope Geyn imparts upon his successor the importance of clear communication and cutting down on unnecessary expenditures. If president-elect Dominick Suvonnasupa follows through with his plans to implement an research and development office, this will also present a valuable opportunity to provide an interdepartmental approach to balancing the future budget.

If A.S. Council is to promise increased support of its campus organizations and constituents, a strong and flexible budget is a necessary prerequisite to avoid subsequent disappointment and irritation from students. 

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