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Student organizations caught off guard by surprise Senate budget cuts

RSOs on campus were cut by at least 20%. Graphic BY Meghan Holloran | photo editor on campus were cut by at least 20%. Graphic BY Meghan Holloran | photo editor

On Friday, Oct. 6 at 1:44 p.m., presidents of registered student organizations were informed via email by the Student Senate Executive Council of significant budget cuts. 

According to the email, these cuts were made due to decreased student enrollment, resulting in the Senate’s allocatable funds being cut from the original estimation of $600,000 to $412,000. According to Student Body President Ruwayda Egal, decreased enrollment is the only factor that contributed to these cuts.

In addition to cutting the budgets of RSOs, the Senate only has $6,000 for one-time-funding requests, whereas in previous years they’ve had $60,000. Therefore, approval for one-time-funding will be strict this year. 

The Senate’s goal, outlined in the email, was to limit cuts across the board to around 20%, but some organizations were cut significantly or entirely. Drake Women’s Club Soccer and Drake Mock Trial lost 100% of their funding. Unity Roundtable was cut 46%, Drake Dance Marathon was cut 48% and the National Pan-Hellenic Council was cut 78%. 

“It’s not perfect. It never was going to be,” Zimpleman College of Business Senator Luke Gregoire said in an Oct. 19 Senate meeting. “I think we found one of the best alternatives that we had.”

The only allocations that were not cut from the initial budget were Personnel and the Student Senate. According to Egal, the $28,000 Personnel funding goes toward stipends for salaried members of Student Senate, Student Activities Board and Unity Roundtable. 

“Not everyone in these organizations gets a stipend but a couple do,” Egal said.

Egal added that the Senate’s $2,600 budget is used at the discretion of the Senate.

“I cannot give a definite answer on what we will use that [for], but we host many events and have office supplies that are needed,” Egal said. 

According to the Oct. 6 email, the Executive Council took into consideration how much of their budget the RSOs had used so far and the amount of money in their agency account, which is a savings balance for RSOs. The amount in the agency account was subtracted first, and then if that didn’t create a 20% cut, more was subtracted to make sure each organization had at least 20% cuts.

“When coming to the table to discuss these allocation adjustments, we wanted to ensure that we approached it in a fair and equitable manner,” the Senate Executive Council wrote in the Oct. 6 email.

Junior Nora Will, the president of Women’s Club Soccer, said the club’s funding was cut due to the amount in their agency account. The club was initially projected to have a budget of $885 in addition to the approximately $1000 saved in their agency account. 

“Us and Mock Trial’s budgets were completely cut based on that formula,” Will said. “However, that formula didn’t take into account a lot of factors, like the fact that we asked for that money as an on top kind of thing. We knew we would have that money in our agency account, but we needed additional money.”

The funds in the agency account have been collected through dues since before Will’s first year at Drake to save up money for new jerseys. Currently, the team is wearing old jerseys purchased from the Division I women’s team, and they only have 16 or 17 of each color left.

“That $1,000 that’s set aside in the agency is supposed to be for jerseys, and it’s supposed to be for the future of the club.” Will said. “Because we are having to pull some money out of that agency account, there’s no way that we’ll be able to get jerseys two, three years down the line.”

When the updated budget was first released, Mock Trial was under the impression that in addition to having their original budget of $7,935 cut, $490 would be removed from their agency account. Senate thought Mock Trial had already spent $490 of this year’s budget and therefore expected them to pay it back.

“I thought this must have been a mistake. It would mean that they were getting rid of almost our entire annual budget while also removing money from what we had saved to be able to travel when we qualify for higher competitions,” Mock Trial Treasurer Anna Thompson said. “Unfortunately, when I asked someone to clarify, they did confirm that our entire annual budget was gone.”

Leadership from Mock Trial and Women’s Club Soccer met with Egal and Senate Treasurer Munachi Okuagu to clarify and appeal the budget cuts. In their meeting, Mock Trial and Egal and Okuagu came to an agreement that Mock Trial would not have to repay the funds they already spent from the initial budget. However, the Women’s Club Soccer’s budget remains the same.

“I said, ‘Hey, we’ve already spent some of this money that we thought that you allocated us and we don’t know if we’re gonna get reimbursed. For me, it’s highly unethical to spend all the money that has been saved before I even went here,’” Will said. “They were like, ‘Well, maybe you could fundraise.’ So that was pretty disappointing to hear.”

The university policy for dues-collecting clubs is that all dues should be directly deposited in the agency account, which Women’s Club Soccer does. However, Will says that she knows other clubs keep the dues on platforms like Venmo that the University does not have access to. 

“If this happens again in the future, who are the clubs that are going to be able to come out on top? The clubs that didn’t use their agency account,” Will said. “[In] the long run, they’re punishing people with an agency account.”

Student Senate is hosting a Presidents and Treasurers Summit on Nov. 3 in Aliber 101 from 1-3 p.m. to answer questions about these cuts. According to a report given by Egal at the Oct. 18 Faculty Senate meeting, the summit will cover the difference between agency money and annual funding and how organizations can use their funding more effectively.

Morgen Neuhauser contributed reporting.


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