The Undergraduate Finance Board met 80 percent of student group requests for funding this semester, a slight decrease from the 82 percent during the 2013-2014 academic year. Student groups collectively requested $1.75 million, and the UFB allocated around $1.4 million, said UFB Chair Alex Sherry ’15.
The UFB determines funding allocations on an event-by-event basis, and its priority is to create events that are effective for the entire Brown community, Sherry said.
The UFB budget pulls a $250 student activities fee from each student’s tuition. For the 2015-2016 academic year, this amount will rise to $258. The fee will need to increase over the next couple of years for the UFB to maintain the same budget, as it is currently using funds from a residual budget saved over previous years, Sherry said.
There are around 150 student groups qualified to receive funding from UFB, he said, adding that the funding for each group from this year is “on par” with the numerical breakdown of previous years. The Brown Concert Agency received the most funding this year, following a trend from previous years. It was granted $273,200, though around $100,000 is returned every year from ticket sales. The top seven groups remained consistent between this year and last. Following BCA were Brown Lecture Board, Class Coordinating Board, Special Events Committee, Mock Trial, Brown Band and the College Hill Independent.
“We’re kind of a little bit resistant to change,” especially if the event has no precedent for it, Sherry said. “Groups that tend to be the happiest are the ones that understand the process.”
“Our experience has been generally very positive with a few hiccups. What we appreciate is that they’re receptive to those hiccups and do their best to address them,” said Michael D’Ortenzio ’15, who runs Brown Mock Trial.
This year, for the first time, the funding application process was on BearySync, an online platform used in an effort to streamline the process. But the new system also created “bureaucratic hassle” that UFB is working to address, D’Ortenzio said.
In previous years, Brown Stand Up Comics has primarily asked for baseline funding, said Bryan Smith ’15. “This year I asked for additional things,” most of which were rejected, he added. Smith called the process “frustrating” due to “arbitrary rules” and the feeling that UFB is not entirely “approachable.”
But Smith “was surprised and pretty impressed with the supplemental funding process,” calling it a “more preferred way of doing things.” The group received funding for two major events: their Comedy Conference and their podcast “You’re the Expert.” He added that supplemental budgeting was better than “proposing a massive spring budget,” primarily because it’s “so hard to project what you’ll need a year from now.”
Uday Agrawal ’15, head of the South Asian Students Association and treasurer of Badmaash, said both groups received all of the funding they requested.
“I can imagine it being difficult for people who are new to the process,” Agrawal said, adding that though UFB offers a lot of guidance, it is also the responsibility of the student group to make sure one member is trained or briefed in UFB procedure.
In the amount allocated to each group, “a lot of the jostling will come from new things,” Sherry said. Some groups this year were interested in holding events for the first time and made other requests which required new funding. For example, Brown Motion Pictures needed new equipment, a long-term investment that will not be a part of its funding request next year.
The cost for honorarium speakers increased dramatically from the past. Some groups requested as much as $10,000 solely for the honorarium speaker, not including other event costs, Sherry said. Such a sum is simply not in the UFB budget if it is determining cost-benefit trade-off for students, he added.
Beginning this year, the UFB board decided to cover all food costs if food was integral to an event, Sherry said. Last year it covered 50 percent, and in years prior UFB did not cover food at all.
Portions of the almost $1.5 million budget are dispensed to the Brown Center for Students of Color, Pride Month, Women’s History Month, an attorney for all students, club sports and other groups and events that aren’t officially Category 3student groups.
“A lot of groups suggest you request more than you need so you have wiggle room in your budget,” Smith said, adding that this creates a mentality that values overcompensation. UFB Representative and member of Brown Motion Pictures Richard Yue ’16 said UFB is “not naive to the fact that every group inflates their budget every year to get that wiggle room.”
“Our job as a board is to determine whether these events will better student life on campus, the student groups and the community as a whole,” Yue said.
Looking forward, UFB plans to make several changes, said Dakotah Rice ’16, vice chair of UFB and chair-elect for next year. Rice said he hopes to implement a forum in the fall semester to announce the UFB funding awarded to various student groups and to offer a space for students who are interested in giving feedback on the UFB process, which will be addressed the following spring.
Other changes will include approving supplemental funding requests under $500 via e-mail, as it is currently an “inefficiency” not to and the online requests will prevent groups from “wasting their time,” Rice said.
Rice said he also hopes to make the Service Group Funding Boarda more collaborative group that includes individuals from the Swearer Center and other groups. The Board is currently under UFB and receives $10,000 every year. One reason motivating this change is that many service-oriented groups, such as Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment and China Care, currently receive funding from UFB, and potentially “get shortchanged” because they are “not typical Category 3 student groups,” Rice said. Since the UFB budget comes from the student activities fee and many of these groups work in communities outside of Brown, revising the Service Group Funding Board is a logical step.