The Student Experience Center, led by Director Jenny Dodson, is in charge of the budget allocation process for student organizations. Dodson says her office had already allocated the budget for organizations last year after they learned of budget cuts due to reduced enrollment.
“When we received the budget cuts in September or October last year, we sat down and we made some hard decisions. I didn’t feel like it was right to go to the Biology club, for example, and take money back away from the organizations, so we made cuts in other areas,” Dodson said. “Now, that’s not a sustainable process, you have to reexamine your budget if you know that those cuts are going to be a continual thing.”
The Student Experience Center derives the majority of its budget from student activity fees, such as club membership dues. Dodson says budget cuts implemented this year are making up for a cumulative decrease in enrollment.
“Typically we do our budget allocation process in April, which is what we’re moving back to. We’re allocating that money based on an estimated figure that we’re given off of our total budget. So what we had estimated was significantly more than what we actually received, just because we never received budget cuts of that fashion before.”
Dodson says that her office and the student organizations it funds weren’t the only services on campus that received budget cuts.
“Anything fee-based was cut, like health services is fee-based so they received a budget cut as well. And they did it based on real-time enrollment, so if your budget that you were given was based on like a 12,000 enrollment for previous years, and then the budget you actually received was for like 9,000 undergraduate students, that’s a pretty large gap,” Dodson said.
Student organizations are now allocated their budget on a semester-by-semester basis, instead of on a yearly basis in previous years. Organizations that do not spend their entire budget must also return the money they do not use.
Out of the roughly 120 student organizations on campus, Dodson estimates anywhere from 40 to 60 organizations participate in the budget allocation process each year. One of those is the campus newspaper, The Forum. Nicholas Popowitch is its executive editor.
“It was hard enough make an annual budget work, with all the cuts. But, since then, I got some good news,” Popowitch said.
After meeting with Dodson, he was informed that larger organizations, such as the Forum and the Student Government Association, are exempt from the new budget allocation process. Popowitch says he will work with Dodson to create an annual budget for the Forum by April. This year’s budget, however, required some drastic changes.
“We went from $35,000 to $15,000. Traditionally, the executive editor position comes with an $8,000 annual stipend, but I couldn’t justify taking any money after such a drastic cut,” Popowitch said.
In addition to declining the stipend, Popowitch says the Forum will no longer be in print as of this year.
“I managed to get a new website up and running, I’m paying the section editors, and senior writers, and we’re working with the UA Cooperative Extension to focus on ad solutions that will direct our traditional readership to the website. It’s kind of sad, to shut down printing, but that’s a sign of the times, isn’t it?”
Popowitch says he wants to start printing the Forum again next year, pending a larger budget. Nonetheless, Dodson says recent changes to the budgeting process for student organizations were necessary for the sake of accountability.
“There wasn’t a written policy for student organization allocations. It was institutional knowledge. So it’s hard to hold organizations accountable to something that’s not a written policy,” Dodson said.
The deadline for student organizations to submit their budget applications has been pushed back to Sept. 22 at 5 p.m., with hearings to follow on Sept. 27 and 28.