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New Finance Board procedures leave student organizations in the dark

Over the summer, the SGA Finance Board instituted changes in the way it allocates funds to student organizations. The implementation of these changes has led to problems for a number of organizations. In the past, funds were allocated to clubs on a first come, first serve basis, which left events in the spring semester severely underfunded. The new system requires students to request funding for events the semester before they occur, which is meant to allow the Finance Board to better allocate funding across the student organizations. 

When The Retriever reached out for more information concerning these changes, the Finance Board was unable to answer, instead stating, by email on Sept. 3, that they “hope to release a statement about the new reforms and their implementation sometime in the next couple of weeks.”

In the interim, student organizations have been struggling to understand what their financial obligations are. For example, it was only through a friend — who happened to be a Finance Board officer — that Jake Knutsen, treasurer of UMBC’s Smash Bros. Club, learned why his club did not receive their yearly budget, due to an outstanding debt. “It took three different emails,” he wrote to The Retriever, “to figure out what caused the debt, and it all came down to the fact there was an error between [our order for a room on campus] and the money we requested to be refunded from SGA.” 

It was only after his conversation with the Finance Board officer that, about an hour later, Knutsen received a notification of the club’s debt. Knutsen further specified that the club received no official notification of the discrepancies, and furthermore there lacked a paper trail of where the money went. “[Smash Bros. Club] aims to spend as little money as humanly possible to ensure that our weekly meetings can stay free for its members,” Knutsen explained. “[In the past] we usually have refrained from asking the Finance Board for money.”

Travez Hardin, treasurer of Mama’s Boys, also complained that although his club did receive an email notification for their debt a week before his hearing before the Finance Board, “it was frustrating finding out where to pay and for what things.” In fact, he had no idea that the club had accrued debt from the previous semester and thus would not be able to receive funding in the meanwhile.

A current Finance Board officer, on condition of anonymity, explained, in part, why the Finance Board has been inconsistent in its implementations: “Old officers and treasurers weren’t updating new officers, leading to a lot of confusion,” he explained. “Our documentation has not been up to code.”

In fact, during the Finance Board’s public meeting Tuesday Sept. 10, representatives of WMBC, the university’s student-run online radio station, were unable to secure the funds they needed; when WMBC filled out their yearly budget estimations, a previous Finance Board officer instructed them to place the cost of their new software under “decorations” instead of the more relevant category, “contracts.” In the meanwhile, that officer never informed incoming officers of the decision to place WMBC’s software costs in decorations. On this technicality, WMBC was unable to secure any funds at all.

How these concerns will be addressed, if at all, remains to be seen.

Photo: The SGA Finance Board meets every Tuesday in The Commons. Photo by Alex McKenzie.