Of the $680,000 the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC) distributes every year, more than two-thirds of the total is allocated before the fall semester even begins. Last May, the SAFC allocated 76 percent of the pool to 19 clubs with operating budgets, with some student organizations emerging with all their requests met and others seeing large sections of their funding proposals go unfulfilled.
The Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC), for instance, received only 56 percent of its initial request. However, the BOC also received the second-highest funding from the SAFC, or 10 percent of the annual budget. Other organizations received far less, such as Masque and Gown. which netted around 1 percent of the total pool, and the Orient, which received 3.3 percent.
Of the clubs that submitted operating budgets, the Entertainment Board (E-Board) received the most money, collecting $143,500 or 21 percent of the SAFC's annual pool and 82 percent of the funds it requested. The E-Board is responsible for organizing major events on campus, including the Ivies Weekend concert.
Although student organizations with operating budgets may continue to approach the SAFC for additional funds throughout the year, the remaining 24 percent of the SAFC's pool will mostly be awarded on a weekly basis to the 100 or so student groups without operating budgets.
"There's definitely no set formula," said former SAFC Chair Kyle Dempsey '11 of the funding process. "It's more of a consideration of, 'does it add something to campus that is currently lacking? Would a lot of students benefit from that particular event?'"
Ask and You (Might) Receive
For the past two years, the BOC, the largest group on campus, has asked for approximately $120,000; both times, its request was only partially met, according to current SAFC Chair Brian Kim.
"I think they're a little overwhelmed by the number," said Director of the Outing Club Michael Woodruff, referring to the amount the BOC requested from the SAFC. "I think our request is the ideal situation that we envision and their allocation is the reality."
The BOC wants to use the additional funds to purchase new equipment for a "higher volume of programming," Woodruff said. In the past, the BOC used membership dues to buy equipment. About eight years ago, however, the SAFC changed its policy regarding food, prompting the BOC to negotiate with the SAFC.
"We came to an agreement...with the SAFC folks that instead of using SAFC funds for food purchases, [we would] use our dues funds and we would use some of the funds from the SAFC for equipment purchases," said Woodruff.
Kim said that the BOC has "never disputed any of the changes we made, so, to our knowledge, the cuts we made allowed them to function properly as a group."
According to Kim, the SAFC awarded the BOC $2,000 more this year than it did in 2010.
"I don't think we'll stop asking for what our ideal number is, but we're not distraught when they give us what they're willing to give us," said Woodruff.
The BOC wasn't the only club to see a large portion of its request go unfulfilled. Bowdoin Cable Network (BCN) received $29,424, only 58 percent of its initial request.
This year, BCN asked for additional funding in order to implement an initiative that would allow students to stream movies online.
According to BCN General Manager Lidey Heuck '13, a BCN survey showed that more students wanted to stream movies online than watch them on TV.
Most of BCN's budget goes toward paying for the rights to the movies played on Channel 40, and the addition of the online initiative required a higher level of SAFC support.
Kim said that when the SAFC considered BCN's request for these extra funds, it decided that an initiative that "drastic" would not be worth the cost.
BCN was able to reallocate funding originally intended for a server update to the online initiative, however, and plans to stream movies online as well as on Channel 40 this semester.
"That's the beauty of the spending budgets, because if a club sees fit they can redistribute their funds to best accommodate their club," said Kim.
Funding the SAFC
In order to fund the SAFC's annual pool, the Bursar's Office charges each student who is enrolled on campus a student activities fee of $215 per semester.
According to Director of Student Life Allen Delong, the amount of money the Student Activities Office collects depends on how many students study away or take a semester off.
Last year, the Student Activities Office collected $730,400 through the student activities fee and budgeted $680,000 to the SAFC. That left the office with a surplus of $50,400 to cover for clubs that may exceed their budgets over the course of the semester.
Delong addressed the College's obligation to pay for its club's expenses, even when they go over their budgets.
"We can't say to our vendors, 'We're the students. We're not going to pay our bills, we're not going to reimburse you for an act we were doing on behalf of the College,'" he said.
According to Delong, the additional funds also go towards "unbudgeted expenses."
In 2010, for example, the Student Activities Office used the funds to help finance facilities work and equipment setup during Ivies Weekend."It was not an inexpensive proposition," said Delong.
Despite its tight budget, the SAFC occasionally does not spend all of the money it is allotted. In years past, the SAFC has had "an extra stock of about $10,000," said Kim.
The Student Activities Office typically allocates the surplus funds to special projects; for instance, in 2008, extra funding was used to help renovate the sail room, an initiative spearheaded by Bowdoin Student Government (BSG).
Delong said that if the Student Activities Office was to have $10,000 left over in the spring this year, the money would not automatically go to BSG.
"Dean Foster and I have been working on a way to institutionalize that process, and students will certainly be involved," said Delong. "I try to be as transparent as possible in what we do with the money, but if we were to spend that, it would be directly on things that would benefit all students as much as possible," he added.