The current budget process that SGA uses is from 1999, making it older than many of the students on Elon’s campus. It is time for a change and SGA has been working on one for this upcoming academic year. The potential changes were discussed at a town hall on Thursday, November 29th in downstairs Moseley and the new policy will come to vote at the SGA meeting on Thursday, Dec. 6, after the Festival of Lights.
The new budget proposal would mean that student organizations would receive up to $300 in funding and then would be able to apply for additional funding on an “as needed” basis. This policy would force large organizations to be more intentional about their spending and provides smaller organizations the opportunity to request additional funding for big events for the Elon community. However, these policy changes come hand in hand with some difficulties, especially for larger organizations that have expenses that vary from year to year, such as repair costs for Safe Rides vehicles, and cannot wait a week or more for the newly proposed finance committee to approve their requests. The proposed changes to the budget policy are “one size fits all” but our student organizations are diverse in size and nature.
I attended the town hall after seeing it advertised via Instagram story, but many of my friends and peers have expressed concern that they did not even know this event was taking place. Further still, many students are unaware that any budget policy changes are being made, despite the fact that the money that SGA receives comes directly from the Student Activity Fee, which is $272 per student per year as part of tuition. If SGA’s budget is coming directly from students, shouldn’t revisions to the budget policy also include students from across campus, not just from within SGA? With vacancies in the SGA, are vital campus voices and perspective being overlooked? How can we claim that students participate fully in these decisions about what to do with their money when many students do not know these changes are occurring or know when town halls or SGA meetings are? Where is the transparency in this whole process between SGA and the student body?
With many students unaware of the potential ramifications of these policy changes, SGA is attempting to gain student feedback through their town hall and open SGA meeting. However, these events are hosted during the busiest two weeks of the year, right before finals when students are often just trying to keep their heads above the water. These drowning students have little time to spare and these SGA events seem to be inaccessible and rushed. If SGA truly wants student input and feedback on these proposed changes, they would delay the vote until March so that more students could understand the policy and its impact on student organizations. The actual written legislation will not be made available until Tuesday, just two days before the vote on the issue. This gives students minimal time to process the potential changes and meet with their advisors to discuss how this impacts their specific organizations.
People say change can be scary, a phrase I heard several people utter when there was discontent with these proposed changes at the town hall. While some people fear change itself, I do not- I think it is time for change. However, what is scary is the rushed nature of these proposed changes and the potential negative ramifications they can have on student organizations without getting input from the students who they will affect. The budget must be updated, but it needs to do so with all students and student organizations in mind. Change is usually a slow process for a reason and this change should be no exception. Students, contact your SGA representatives and attend the open forum on Thursday to make your voice heard. And SGA I challenge you, if you truly want to serve the students, open your ears and postpone the vote until you actually listen to us all.