Clubs are an integral part of Garneau’s culture. From EcoTeam to Urban Dance, these clubs allow students to pursue their interests with other like-minded individuals. In order for many of these clubs to run, they must have an operating budget, which is provided by SAC. However, the current system for allocating club budgets is far from perfect. Many improvements are needed. In particular, the system must become more specific, transparent, and accountable in order to better serve the student population.
Currently, applications for budgets are filled out online alongside a club registration form. The application lists a few considerations used in determining budgets, then asks for a brief description of what the requested amount will be spent on, how the club spent its money the last semester (when applicable), and why any money wasn’t spent the last semester.
Although SAC’s method isn’t abysmal, significant flaws can be found. First, SAC needs to retain more data and create dossiers on clubs. It should record and store all information on the club’s form, as well as its year-to-year expenses. These changes will allow SAC to make budget-related decisions based on facts rather than speculation.
The current system does not provide for clubs which only require a budget in one semester, and not the other. At the moment, SAC splits its budget for clubs in halves to be distributed each semester, so a club will receive approximately half of its assigned budget in each semester. This is beneficial to clubs that also require a budget in second semester, as there is still money left for them later on in the year; however, if a club needs all of its assigned budget in first semester, the money from second semester would be unnecessary.
SAC should start fixing this problem by leaving a smaller amount of its total budget, perhaps 10 – 20%, for second semester. A majority of clubs are started at the beginning of the school year, so most are able to apply for budgets in first semester. For the clubs that start in or only apply for a budget in second semester, the 10 – 20% should be sufficient to cover their costs if all the money from first semester is used up.
Secondly, SAC should ask when the requested money is needed. That way, clubs which only need money in first semester could be given priority and receive their money immediately. Clubs that only need their money in second semester could apply for additional funds then if they didn’t receive their requested amount in first semester. These changes to the system would allow clubs to receive the money that they need when they need it.
Finally, SAC should require clubs to write justifications for their requested budgets. At the moment, SAC has to decide, on its own, how essential each expense is to every club. However, it’s possible that it won’t fully understand or appreciate the club’s need for certain expenses. What seems like a frivolous expense at first glance, may in reality be integral to the club’s functioning. SAC should explicitly encourage clubs to write out reasons for their individual expenses. This will give a better idea of why each club needs money.
These improvements in communication must come not only from the clubs, but also from SAC itself. At the moment, SAC offers no explanation for why clubs do, or do not, receive their full requested amounts of money. It’s possible to hound SAC for answers, but it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the clubs to ask SAC why it acted in the way that it did. Instead, SAC should be responsible for informing the club of the reasons for its actions. By hiding the reasons for budget allocations, the amounts given can come off as unfair, arbitrary, or inconsiderate.
Furthermore, this behaviour can and has lead to clubs inflating their budget requests. On many occasions, SAC has given clubs budgets well below their requested amounts without any reasons listed. As a result, clubs often inflate their expenses in the hopes of getting at least some money, as they see no other way to obtain remotely adequate funds.
An easy solution to this problem would be for SAC to publish its reasons for budget allocations in an easily accessible format. This would include the expense requests of each club, and the reasons for the acceptance, rejection, or modification of the requested amounts. This way clubs would know why their requests weren’t being accepted, and either amend them the next semester or get rid of a certain cost entirely.
Alongside this new-found transparency, SAC needs to improve its current criteria for budgets and develop a more systematic approach to their determination . First, SAC should create a general purpose for giving out budgets. This would create a solid basis on which tough decisions could be made. It would also provide guidance for future amendments to the policy. Secondly, SAC should write down what they look for in the content of the budget, and list the types of clubs which are most likely to receive a budget. For example, it might say that clubs which provide a service to the general school population will generally be more likely to receive a larger percentage of their desired budget, as opposed to clubs which serve a smaller niche.
In order to make more consistent decisions about budgets, SAC should create a hierarchy for their considerations, which are listed in the online article. The most important one should be the quintessence of the content, as unessential items are luxuries that should only be available in times of prosperity. After this, the potential impact of the club should be considered. Next, the history of the club should be looked at, as it’s usually a good indicator of how the club will use its money. The size of the club should follow. The last listed consideration is only applicable to clubs applying for a budget for the second time. In this scenario, SAC should just view the money that the club already has as part of what it’s giving them for the year, so the new request would just be a supplement to that.
Clubs are the school’s best medium for students to explore their passions and fulfill their dreams. Unfortunately, money is often a necessity for them to function. In order to ensure that the optimal amount of students can pursue their passions, an effective method of distributing money to clubs is a necessity. Otherwise, the students that fall through the cracks will be relegated to a life of work, study, and lost dreams.