News, University News

UFB launches transparency campaign

New website, quarterly budget reports, call for student feedback aim to clarify policies, practices

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Undergraduate Finance Board has created a new website as part of its initiative to increase transparency. UFB is responsible for allocating $2 million to around 250 student groups each year.

The Undergraduate Finance Board will work this semester to make their operations more transparent through a new website, quarterly budget reports and a call for student feedback, said UFB Chair Lisa Schold ’19 and Vice Chair Julian De Georgia ’20 in an interview with The Herald. UFB is the student-run group that is responsible for allocating around $2 million to approximately 250 student groups each year, according to its website.

“Over the years, we’ve definitely realized that a lot of the student body doesn’t necessarily realize what we do or what goes on behind the scenes, and it can be a really complicated process,” Schold said. “It was really important for us to make that process easier to navigate.”

UFB’s recently launched standalone website provides information about the Board and its policies along with resources for student groups, like a step-by-step guide to making a budget.

Former UFB Chair Yuzuka Akasaka ’18 “was the first person to champion the website,” De Georgia said. Information about UFB was added to the Undergraduate Council of Students’ website last semester, he said.

“There (are) a lot of things that it would be helpful to know in order to effectively get money (from) UFB, … so we realized that it would be a lot more effective to have an independent website,” De Georgia said. UCS approved funding for the site in a general body meeting in April, The Herald previously reported.

Having UFB’s policies easily accessible online could also help groups like Ivy Film Festival obtain outside funding, said Misha Gehring ’18.5, an executive director of IFF.

“I think definitely that (the website) clarifies things,” Gehring said. “In terms of our sponsors … it would be really nice for them to see where the money we have is going and therefore where the money they give us will supplement and can fill in the places that UFB doesn’t fill.”

The Board also plans to issue budget reports to help explain how they distribute funding.

The first report, which De Georgia and Schold expect to be out by the end of September, will provide a “very big picture breakdown” of how UFB allocates funds, De Georgia said. Later in the semester, UFB plans to release a “more detailed, nuanced breakdown of specifically certain budget categories,” he added.

Gehring said she would be interested in seeing those reports. “IFF does things on a very small budget given the scale of (what) our festival ends up being and it is because … we only bring guests to campus for free,” Gehring said. So she would be “really curious” to view the budgets of many other student groups.

Brown Outing Club Vice President Sarah Berman ’20, who served as one of the group’s treasurers last year, said she is not personally interested in reading the report.

“I think it’s a great idea that they’re keeping up with it enough to do it, … but it’s not a completely necessary thing to do,” she said. Similar student boards at other universities, such as Penn and Dartmouth, have previously made public information about their allocations to student groups.

UFB will also work to encourage more feedback from student groups, including those who may be unhappy with current policies, De Georgia said.

“Part of the goal of this is to kind of open up that conversation, … so that we can continue to improve,” he said.

Transparency is especially important for UFB, Schold said, as its budget is the combined total of every undergraduate’s yearly $286 student activities fee.

“This fund is made of students’ … money and the purpose of it is to fund student activities on campus,” she said. “We want people to have a say in that process.”