Strapped BRC denies half of fund requests

A spike in large-scale requests from student groups forced the Budget Review Committee (BRC) to cut nearly half the proposed funding requested during a six-hour meeting last night. The process left speakers like Danny Glover and events like the former Student Activities Program of the Year, Staff Appreciation Day, on the cutting room floor.

The BRC, a subcommittee of the Student Government Association (SGA), is charged with allocating nearly $1.7 million collected annually from the undergraduate student activities fee.

Under a new method of funding enacted at the end of last spring, the BRC separates the $850,000 set aside for student group programming into six different funding periods based on the average dollar amounts allocated in previous years.

At the six-hour meeting that ended at 11:30 last night, roughly $225,000 was requested for 18 events in the February to mid March time period, said Chris Kelley, BRC Chair and SGA vice president for financial affairs. However, only $110,000 was budgeted for that funding period.

“I was surprised the spike was as big as it was,” Kelley said, attributing it to an increase in student leadership and more student groups willing to take on large programs.

The BRC unanimously approved events like the Northeastern University Downhillers’ annual weekend ski trips (about $24,300), the Northeastern African Student Association’s “Africa Night 2007” (about $8,150), and the Northeastern Black Student Association’s (NBSA) “The Souls of Black Folk” (about $16,880).

However, tight budget restrictions the forced the committee cut three programs.

With five yes votes and two abstentions, the BRC cut funding for the Latin American Student Organization’s (LASO) Staff Appreciation Day ($1,684), on grounds that the program was not in line with LASO’s mission statement.

“Our mission is to advance our culture and preserve our identity through continuous innovation, developing leaders and getting involved in the community” according to LASO’s website.

The BRC funded this event last year, and it was voted Program of the Year by Student Activities. There was heated debate over funding for the event, which LASO sponsors as an opportunity for students to show their support by serving food to the university’s service workers. Because only an average of 20 students can participate in the event, some panel members reasoned it didn’t fall under the category of a student event.

A proposal for NUDANCO’s 4th Annual Winter Concert ($4,991) this Saturday was also denied, on the grounds that the request wasn’t submitted within the proper time frame.

After the decision to cut these two events and various specific items that were not integral to programs, like keychain bottle openers and other promotional items, the BRC still had to find a remaining $60,000 to cut due to budget constraints.

There was discussion of a 35 percent cut from all events across the board, but it was nixed since many programs would no longer have been possible. The committee then focused its attention on the two largest programs: A Poverty Forum with speakers Al Sharpton and Chris Gardner and a talk by actor Danny Glover on the future of Haiti.

The Poverty Forum by NBSA featuring Sharpton and Gardner, subject of the feature film “The Pursuit of Happyness,” was approved, but funding was cut to allow for just one of the two speakers. The original request was for about $40,000 including speaker fees of $25,000 and $18,000 for Gardner and Sharpton respectively.

The high price per student for the event also led to the cuts. Unable to find dates at Blackman Auditorium, NBSA scheduled the forum at the Cabral Center in the African American Institute, which would have allowed less than 300 students to attend.

During the debate Senator Allison Kenna said if approved, the event would cost about $132 per student, $23 more than the entire student activities fee. Despite appreciating the events and the speakers, Kenna said there simply isn’t enough money.

“We didn’t do it because we don’t like [the programs], we did it because we don’t have [the funding],” she said.

Funding was denied for the Glover event ($39,700) by the Haiti Student Unity (HSU), also in the Cabral Center, for the same reasons. HSU proposed the talk titled “Haiti’s Future” along with four other programs for Haiti week, which were all approved.

The decision to cut funding for the Glover event came after many hours of debate during which the committee discussed the lack of programming space on campus and weighed the value of events compared to the cost. The conclusion was that the Cabral Center was not enough space for an event of that caliber.

Some on the committee felt the event would have worked fine if it was in a larger space where more students could participate. With only eight to 10 dates available in Blackman Auditorium, space has been an issue for many student groups over the past year.

“Students are being penalized. We need more programming space on campus,” said Michelle Storch, an SGA senator and a sophomore economics major, during debate.

Kelley said the administration is aware of the need for more space and SGA is working on solutions, but it’s difficult because changes must be incorporated into the university’s master plan, which is written every 10 years. However, Kelley said the opening of St. Ann University Parish in the coming months should help alleviate some of the strain.

As of press time the student groups had not yet been informed of the status of their proposals. Kelley said they would all be informed in a memo by Monday.

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