University News

UFB releases student group spring budget totals

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, October 19, 2012

The Undergraduate Finance Board released a compilation of student group spring budget totals for the past six years in an email to students today. The board distributes about 45 percent of its total spring budget between Brown Concert Agency, Lecture Board and the Special Events Committee, which are the top three funded student groups. The top 30 groups receive about 80 percent of UFB’s total funding.

The records, which show the funding trends for the top 30 UFB-funded groups from 2007 to 2012, are part of ongoing efforts to increase transparency, said Daniel Pipkin ’14, vice chair of UFB.

Jug humor magazine – the 30th group listed on the budget report – received $6,150 this spring, compared to $204,100 for BCA.

The variation in funding totals is determined in part by group event visibility and attendance as well as expected cost of activities, Pipkin said. Since Spring Weekend is essential to the student experience at Brown, and BCA requires substantial funds to attract headliners, they receive the highest total.

The overall UFB spring budget for student groups is allocated based on a particular “total budget target” that varies based on inflation, newly recognized groups and increases in facilities costs. Student groups submit their budget requests, and UFB must “whittle it down to that number,” UFB chair Zak Fischer said.

For example, BCA received $15,000 less in funding between 2010 and 2011. Funding for all student groups went down partly after then-Student Activities Chair Ralanda Nelson ’12 declined to propose a Student Activities Fee increase due to concerns over financial aid and tuition, Pipkin said. The change in budget impacted the group’s booking abilities.

The cost of bringing artists to colleges also inflates even as the budget stays the same, said Emma Ramadan ’13, BCA booking chair.

Other budget fluctuations result from unforeseen circumstances. Greek Council has historically received funds for its annual Spring Weekend Rage on Wriston, an alcohol-free event. But last spring, it decided to put on Fratty in the Ratty in place of the traditional party. The event was funded by Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential life and dining services, so the funds expected to be allocated to the event were returned to UFB, Pipkin said.

Alexander Kaplan ’14, chair of the Student Activities Committee and Herald staff writer, said the release will create awareness about student group funding.

The budget release comes on the heels of a vote by the Undergraduate Council of Students in favor of a student activities fee increase proposal Wednesday.

“From the student groups’ perspective, the increase definitely needs to happen,” Kaplan said. It will allow “greater agency” in the way UFB and UCS can accommodate student requests.

Compared to peer institutions, the University allocates far less money to student groups due in part to the sheer number of organizations, Kaplan said. Tufts University has a $288 Student Activities Fee compared to Brown’s $214 fee.

UFB cannot fund every cost incurred by student groups. It will not cover food costs, event decorations and typically will only finance up to three students to attend a particular conference.

Brown University Student Television’s production teams “generally pay out of pocket for additional expenses they incur,” wrote Finance Director Anthony Calcagni ’13 in an email to The Herald.

UFB has restricted the budget release to the top 30 groups for clarity’s sake. Six years of data compiled by student groups is not very clean, Fischer said.

Some groups went defunct, and some were created since 2007, Pipkin added, which made deciphering data difficult. The percentages allocated to each group have remained relatively constant in terms of the overall budget over the course of these six years, Fischer said.

Student groups must line-item every cost they anticipate and are restricted to using those funds for the use they specified.

BCA must determine the split between talent for Fall Concert and Spring Weekend. This year, it asked for approximately $25,000 for fall concert and only received $20,000, Ramadan said.

But the group did receive the $180,000 it requested for Spring Weekend.

“Going into the year, we know exactly how much we have to work with,” she said. The selection of headliners BCA considers is constrained by the group’s budget.

But occasionally, student groups cannot determine certain costs in their original spring budget requests, such as travel, hotel rates, “things you just need,” Pipkin said. Such funding comes out of supplemental funding, distributed as needed at UFB’s twice-weekly meetings.

Calcagni formerly served as treasurer for the Ivy Film Festival, an organization that he said “relies pretty heavily on donations and other supplemental funding.”

Though he said the group could request more than the approximately $2,500 it receives from UFB – IFF is not among the top 30 groups – he said he thought UFB would perceive them as lacking sufficient need given their alternate sources of funding.

The budget release is aimed to open up a dialogue about the future direction of student group finance, said UCS President Anthony White ’13. It serves as a reference point for how money is used.

The release is “part of UFB just checking in,” White said. Attached is a feedback form designed to determine how student groups view the budgeting process and allocations.

UFB’s resources must cover not only spring budgets and supplemental funding, but also other incidental costs such as Department of Public Safety presence at student events, the fire marshal and the attorney made available to students.

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