Student orgs. prepare for budget reductions

| 11/29/09 11:00pm

Student organizations likely not immune from what could be $100 million in budget cuts over the next two years at the College have begun to reexamine their spending, planning more cost-efficient campus events and activities to save money, according to student leaders interviewed by The Dartmouth.

"It's kind of a wait-and-see game for everyone," Liz Agosto, associate director of the Collis Center and Student Activities, said in an interview with The Dartmouth. "I think [mindfulness of spending] is already starting to happen."

Adam Halpern-Leistner '10, a former member of the Undergraduate Finance Committee, said that student groups that had previously relied on multiple sources of funding may have to rely fully on Council on Student Organizations funding in the future.

"Whatever COSO gives you, it may have to be 100 percent of the funding," Halpern-Leistner said. "That could create a squeeze on COSO."

Caitlin Halpert '10, Programming Board's budget director, similarly said that groups that may have looked elsewhere in the past might need to rely more heavily on Programming Board, as other funding sources become less able to provide assistance.

"Things that used to be covered by the Student Activities Office then get shifted over to us," Halpert said. "The slack has to be picked up somewhere."

Orientation and the Senior Gala, which had in the past been funded partially by the Student Activities Office, will fall solely to Programming Board this fiscal year, Halpert said.

Fewer student groups have requested funding from Programming Board and Student Assembly this year, however, possibly due to the misconception that money is unavailable, Halpert said.

"We have definitely seen a decline in the number of proposals," she explained. "I think people are too scared to ask for money because they think there's none there."

The Assembly's Inter-Community Development Fund has seen a similar trend, Student Body President Frances Vernon '10 said, adding that she hopes students do not mistakenly think that there is no money available for organizations because the College is in the process of implementing budget cuts.

Although COSO student groups have thus far been spared from direct budget cuts, they are keeping cost-efficiency in mind when planning future activities and events.

"I think that's definitely something that we've been trying to brainstorm thinking of events that require less money," Uma Mullapudi '10, president of Milan, Dartmouth's South Asian group, said. "We decided not to do a fall show, partially because we thought it would be fiscally responsible."

Budget cuts have not yet affected organizations funded by the UFC because their funding comes from the student activities fee, which, as a component of College tuition, has not decreased. The UFC allocates approximately $1 million to Class Councils, Club Sports, Collis Governing Board, the Committee on Student Organizations, the Greek Leadership Council, Programming Board, the Special Programs and Events Committee, and Student Assembly.

Other campus groups, like Dartmouth's Social Enterprise and Economic Development Society, are co-sponsoring events to save money, SEEDS President Connie Hu '11 said.

"We're able to better maximize our impact by collaborating with people," she said.

The Class Councils have also been conscious of the potential budget cuts when planning this year's events, since they received smaller allocations from UFC this year, Suril Kantaria, 2013 Class Council president, said.

"We have been asked to spend the money in mindful and more meaningful ways that the class can truly benefit from," he said.

Kantaria added that the 2013 Class Council has begun a "significant fundraising effort" to supplement its budget.

Joe Coleman, 2011 Class Council president, said class councils can organize many inexpensive activities to try to "prepare for the worst."

"We need to make sure we put ourselves in a good position to operate well regardless of our allocation this year," he said.

Student groups funded by sources other than the UFC are also planning activities mindful of the potential for significant reductions in funding. The Dartmouth Coalition for Global Health, funded by the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, began a weekly discussion series to consider global health issues and students' experiences with global health work, a new cost-efficient initiative.

DCGH treasurer Amanda Marinoff '12 said that future budget cuts are a possibility, but they have not decreased the group's enthusiasm, idealism or ambition.

Despite the looming budget cuts, Vernon said the uncertainty can bring positive change. She added that she hopes that Dartmouth will develop innovative cost-cutting solutions and take advantage of the opportunity to make the College more efficient by "sharpening up the process by which we fund various initiatives."