Courtesy of SEC Allocations Committee
If you’ve ever taken the time to closely examine the fees you pay as part of your tuition, you’ve probably seen a charge of a couple hundred dollars listed as the “student activity fee” (SAF). What exactly does this mean, and what is it for? Instead of being used by Case Western Reserve University administration, it goes directly to student organizations through the Student Executive Council (SEC), funding campus activities.
This is no small sum either—the SAF pool totaled $515,000 for the spring 2021 semester. This money is allotted to and handled by the member organizations of the Student Presidents’ Roundtable (SPR), one of the two branches of SEC. It is composed of the presidents of major campus umbrella organizations such as the Class Officer Collective (COC), Interfraternity Congress/Panhellenic Council (IFC/PHC), Undergraduate Student Government (USG), Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative (UDC), University Media Board (UMB) and University Program Board (UPB). These organizations are tasked with allocating funding to other student groups under their administration. All groups are expected to properly budget for their operations and to keep organized and itemized accounts of how they plan their spending and how much of their funding they actually utilize. Unfortunately, and for a variety of reasons, this doesn’t always happen.
To keep organizations accountable and promote financial transparency across campus, the other branch of the SEC, the Allocations Committee (AC), audits these organizations and makes sure that they are using student money to the best of their ability. The AC recently finished an audit of campus student groups’ spending in the spring 2021 semester and found that many groups were not careful enough in their handling of funds. “A lot of clubs just did not track their spending last year,” said third-year Shreyas Banerjee, Chair of the AC. “It’s concerning that student organizations are not aware of how much money they have, and are also not making plans for how to spend their rollover money from previous semesters.” The organization with the worst performance in the audit was USG, with the organization unable to provide a full budget to the AC for review.
“It’s difficult to stay on top of the budget because there’s always money moving in and out,” says fourth-year student Preeti Naik, the VP of Finance for USG. “We do make plans, they’re just not laid out in the budget because it’s mostly for discretionary spending.” USG, like other member organizations of the SPR, distributes funds to numerous other student groups under their purview. “[USG] is allocated 23.4% of the [SAF], and the vast majority of money is used to budget other clubs.” The AC audit reported that treasurers did not seem to be doing their duties and that lack of transition training may be to blame. Despite this, Naik remarked that USG is very concerned with its finances and has every intention to better its handling of them. “Monitoring internal spending, the Student Activities Fair and our past funding helps us get a better idea of how much money to budget…we’re always trying to improve, [and make] information more readily available to club treasurers.”
The AC echoed this sentiment in their audit and placed importance on efficient budgeting and accounting as well as proper training for student group treasurers—many groups, they report, have already made plans to meet with them to discuss these matters in the coming semester. Needless to say, student organizations at CWRU have a duty to use the money provided to them by the student body both responsibly and equitably.