Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Stephen O’Hanlon ‘17 of Mountain Justice requested additional funding and a transfer of funds. Mountain Justice had been under the impression they had less money for transport, he said, and sought out alternative sources of funding (e.g. the Lang Center) for their trip to a fall summit in Virginia. O’Hanlon requested that the now-unneeded money previously allotted to transport be transferred to their allotment for group supplies. O’Hanlon explained that increased support for Mountain Justice on campus has necessitated spending more on materials like orange squares, and more supplies like paint will be needed for events in the coming months.
Dylan Gerstel approved of transferring the funds, saying that not allowing it would be “essentially punishing [Mountain Justice]” for finding alternative sources of transport. Full funding and transfer was proposed, and passed unanimously.
Mountain Justice was the only group proposal this week, so the majority of the meeting was focused on a discussion of the chartering process for student groups. The discussion hinged on two questions: whether chartering groups should be dependant on funding, and whether the chartering process should be more strict.
Andrés Cordero ’16, Student Council Chair of Student Organizations, explained that when a group is chartered, part of the decision typically hinges on whether they could be funded. Cordero said he was “unconvinced about how much this system makes sense,” because it means that groups could not be chartered when there are insufficient funds. Cordero explained that he wants to “reconfigure” what it means to be chartered, so that getting chartered gives groups “the possibility of getting funds […] but does not necessarily mean you will get funds.”
Toby Levy ‘16, SBC Chairperson, pointed out there is an “implicit understanding” that chartered groups receive funding from SBC. Committee member Joshua Wolfsun ‘16 said that last year the decision to charter was divorced from funding. This, he said, resulted in more than 30 groups being chartered, including some that had “what some people might describe as exorbitant budgets”. He questioned why any group would go through the process chartering without the guarantee of funding.
Levy explained that while he is on board with restructuring the chartering process, SBC has a limited budget, which means charting any number of additional groups would result in the budget being spread even more thinly. “Even if [funding] is [done] proposal by proposal,” he said, “we physically won’t be able to do it all.” Levy also worried that funding proposal by proposal, rather than group by group, will jeopardize long-standing events held by well-established cultural and religious groups.
Committee member Varun Prasad ‘16 suggested increasing barriers in the chartering process, possibly by implementing a deadline for charters. Committee member Mosea Harris ‘17 expressed concern with increasing the bureaucracy of SBC, saying: “you shouldn’t need a tax lawyer to propose [for funding],” especially because increasing transparency is one of SBC’s goals this year.
Yein Pyo ‘16, SBC office manager, said that students requesting funds need to be more clear about what they’re asking for. When students come to SBC, she said, they think about having access to $500,000, not about that money being distributed over 100 groups. SBC, she said, needs to make it clear what is and is not a realistic proposal.
Pyo suggested developing a system where SBC can check up on groups regularly to make sure funds are being used effectively. Dylan Gerstel ‘17, SBC office manager, approved of the idea and suggested SBC members would meet with groups and talk about the “nuances of being a treasurer” as well.
Throughout the meeting, Levy stressed that while discussions about the chartering process will continue, nothing about it can be changed without StuCo approval and wider discussions within the student body. He encouraged members to talk to group leaders and people they know, and he said he would continue to speak with Mike Elias.