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BOC budget shortage could reduce programming

The Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) recently discovered a budget shortage of $18,000, which club leadership brought to the attention of Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC) last Friday. This unexpected reduction in the operating budget could result in reduced programming this spring for the club—the College’s largest student organization with over 300 members and one of its major selling points.

SAFC is currently reviewing a budget proposal to allocate $5,810 to BOC for the remainder of the school year and will likely make a decision about whether to grant these funds at their next meeting on Monday. Even if the request is approved, it will still leave BOC nearly $12,000 short of what they expected to have this year.

If SAFC grants the BOC the full $5,810, it would reduce the amount of available funds for other clubs and activities this spring—traditionally the busiest (and most expensive) semester for student programming.

Student leaders of the BOC declined to elaborate on the implications of the situation until hearing back from SAFC next week.

Assistant Director Adam Berliner ’13 said that the reduced funds will not put an end to BOC programming entirely, however.

“We are not closing our doors or shutting down our operations,” he wrote. “The amount of money the SAFC chooses to allocate to us will in part determine the extent of our spring programming, but regardless of what they are able to allocate us, we will continue running trips and programs this spring,” wrote Berliner in an email to the Orient.

The BOC’s previous request of $19,500 was rejected at the SAFC meeting on February 8.

The shortage of finances went unnoticed by student leadership until now because of events that took place over the summer. Last spring, the BOC received an operating budget of $63,737 for the 2015-2016 school year. In the summer, as the previous year’s expenditures were being calculated, Student Activities found that the BOC had exceeded their 2014-15 budget by $18,000. This money had gone toward equipment purchases, trips, vehicles and a record-high amount of financial aid for students who would otherwise be unable to attend outings, according to Berliner. The only money available to cover the debt last summer was from the SAFC budget for the 2015-16 year.

“Since the students were gone, Student Activities most likely worked with the staff of the Outing Club to pull from this year’s SAFC budget and basically ‘loan’ it to them with the expectation being that they would have less money for this year,” said Vice President for the Treasury David Levine ’16.

With students off campus during the summer when these issues were being dealt with, communications between Student Activities, SAFC, the BOC staff and the BOC student leaders were limited.

“I wasn’t really notified that there was a change [to the budget],” said Levine.

It is unclear what communication went on between staff and student leaders of the BOC in the summer following the discovery of their overspending.

The SAFC budget—while it does provide the majority of the BOC’s funds—is not the club’s only source of financing. It also received money through member dues, which fund food expenses, an endowed fund, which finances the Out of the Zone (OZ) Leadership Training program, and a separate budget that goes toward staff salaries, student employment and facility maintenance.

The $5,810 that the BOC has requested would come out of the SAFC’s remaining budget for the year, which funds all student programming and clubs—except the approximately 18 clubs that have an operating annual budget established each spring—on a rolling basis.

At the start of this semester, SAFC had roughly $81,875. Although last spring the SAFC began the semester with $71,327, Levine said this year’s current funds are “well within the normal amounts of SAFC and still enough that we’d have to do some thinking and make some important choices based off of what we do.”

The timing of the BOC’s funding request is especially difficult, as SAFC wants to ensure that their money can last through the end of the year. The spring semester is the busiest in terms of student programming—and the most expensive to fund. In April alone, SAFC helps finance events ranging from Consent is Sexy Week and Asian Week to Ivies and sending club sports teams to national tournaments.   

“If we are to allocate funds, that means that this will be taking away from the other hundred or so organizations who come in for funding for the rest of the year and that’s just very tricky to navigate,” said BSG President Danny Mejia-Cruz ’16 at their meeting on Wednesday.

“The BOC is one of the crowning joys and major selling points of the College and we don’t want them to go stagnant,” he added. “At the same time, we want to maintain the level of programming that we have had in the past during the spring term, so it’s very difficult.”

Levine said that predicting how much the BOC’s $5,810 proposal, if approved, will impact the rest of the semester’s programming is “hard to say at this time.”

He hopes SAFC can find an optimal solution as quickly as possible.

“We are talking with both the student and staff leaders of the BOC and student activities to see what the best way to handle this is,” said Levine. “We’re trying to make [the BOC’s services] as undiminished as possible.”

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