Editorial: The USG spending horror show must be fixed

Getting funding as a student organization is hard enough, but getting funding from the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) has countless times proven to be a disastrous nightmare. While USG itself is replete with numerous other issues, such as a lack of transparency and advocacy for students, it frequently encounters issues with allocating spending to all of the organizations under its umbrella.

First, there is a drastic disparity between the total amount of funding requested from all student organizations and the amount that was actually allocated. According to USG’s funding tracker, student organizations requested a total of $692,369.51, 196% more than the $353,000 of funds that they made available for budgeting. However, only $370,071.12 was actually allocated to organizations, which is still 104.83% of their total funds.

For anyone not well versed in the headache of USG’s budget, allocating more funding than is available seems strange. The reason for this, though, is that USG still has rollover funds from the previous year, meaning that they did not allocate all of the funds that were made available. So these “extra” funds can be used this year. From the most recent Student Executive Council Allocations Committee (AC) audit report, USG had $136,441.93 of remaining rollover funds in the spring 2023 semester.

But this is just a small part of the problem. The issue becomes even more complex the deeper you look.

Let’s take a look at the specific organizations that are receiving budget cuts—hint, it’s all of them. Every single organization received a 33% budget cut in the third round of review. The funding cap for all organizations is $4,000, which for some might not be a lot to work with. Competition clubs, for example, amass higher budgets due to travel, lodging and equipment expenses. For example, Case Western Reserve University’s Ultimate Frisbee Club requested $11,230 in funding but only received $2,680. Obviously, there was no way they would have received all of their requested funding with the cap, but many clubs have to resort to over-requesting to get how much money they actually need because USG will inevitably make budget cuts.

CWRU’s Ice Hockey club, too, saw an immense cut. They requested $9,102 but only received $2,762, a $1,237 cut from the max funding allowed. Interestingly, the Ceramic Art Club requested $8,718 and received $1,069.24.

To add another layer to this confusing mess, USG undergoes three rounds of review during the budgeting process. Many clubs saw budget cuts before the final round. Club Badminton, for instance, saw a $1,483 cut in the second round of review, bringing their allocation for that round down to $2,080, before dropping again in the final round to $1,476.10.

So, we know USG is making immense budget cuts to student organizations, but where are these cuts actually being made? For this we can look to USG’s line item tracker. This report shows even more puzzling decisions. The Ceramic Art Club is one of the more confusing clubs on the list; they requested $1,080 for firing—an essential element in the making of ceramics—yet received absolutely no funding for that budget item. The group did get funding for various other art supplies, but to not get funding for such an essential part of ceramics making is confusing to say the least.

This same decision making continued throughout the report. The Tennis Club requested $1,600 for lodging for travel, yet they only received $1,072, which is enough of a decrease to cause significant issues in plans. Case Crew requested $600 for membership; USG dropped their spending to just $91.12.

Another facet of USG’s budgeting involves automatic allocations. These are the bare minimum funds that are given to organizations that USG cannot cut, capped at $250 for older, well-established clubs and $500 for new clubs. Every organization is allocated this money, regardless of how they use it.

This, however, opens up another headache in the budgeting process. There are currently 210 organizations under USG’s administration. A minimum of $250 for each organization totals $52,500 just for automatic allocations. With $353,000 to allocate, these funds take up a significant portion of USG’s budget.

Herein lies one of the most damaging problems: There are simply so many organizations that USG is not able to fund all of them, especially with the automatic funds. As a result, clubs are forced into deep budget cuts, completely gutting their abilities to operate. These organizations are also completely unregulated in their activities, and USG, thus far, has been ineffective at auditing them—that’s a power often entrusted to the AC. What we end up with is a complete mess of a budgeting process, one that is simultaneously chaotic and extremely strict. How any organization is supposed to operate under these conditions is entirely uncertain.

The budgeting process does not have to be this confusing. If USG took greater initiative to regulate organizations and see which ones actually have enough members to be considered a full organization, then we would avoid many of these problems. Until then, however, we are forced to deal with this horror show, and students are left to suffer with the mess.

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