According to Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC) documents, the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) budget has more than doubled in the last three years. While the SAFC allocated BSG just $33,900 for the 2011-2012 academic year, the governing body’s budget rose to $55,394 for the 2012-2013 academic year and increased again this year to $75,142. These expansions in SAFC funding are largely attributable to BSG’s new control over existing events and services.

The most notable changes are due to shifts in funding for Spring Gala and the Yellow Bike Club--both added to the BSG budget in 2012--and the online PolarFlix film streaming service, added in 2013. Spring Gala and the Yellow Bike Club annually cost about $20,000 and $5,400, respectively, while PolarFlix costs $12,000.

According to BSG President Sarah Nelson ’14, Spring Gala was also brought under BSG’s umbrella because of its applicability to the whole student body and the fact that it doesn’t fit neatly into another student organization’s purview.

“Ultimately when it’s something that’s reaching that large of a number of students, it makes sense that the student government does that, as it reaches the entire school,” Nelson said.  

The film streaming service, PolarFlix, had originally been provided by the Bowdoin Cable Network, but was taken over by BSG after what SAFC Chair Megan Massa ’14 called “a snafu with club leadership from year to year.”  According to Massa, the BSG has taken on funding these additional services and events because they “are services that we thought students wanted, and should always receive, and if the BSG oversaw them they would be seen continuously from year to year and wouldn’t be dropped.”    

The Yellow Bike Club was brought under the BSG for more bureaucratic reasons. According to Associate Director of Student Activities Nate Hintze, the BSG bylaws state that no independent student club funded by the SAFC is allowed to pay students for performing their duties as club members. Hintze explained that the fact that Yellow Bike Club mechanics are paid an hourly wage went against SAFC guidelines, so the actual funding of the service was transferred to BSG, which is allowed to pay students for their services. Rather than applying for funding from the SAFC, the Yellow Bike Club now asks for money directly from BSG. According to Andrew Pryhuber ’15, a mechanic and student leader of the Yellow Bike Club, the BSG’s role funding the YBC has not changed how the club functionally operates.

While funding for certain services has been moved around in the past few years, the $680,000 pot that the SAFC receives from the College has not changed, and the operating budgets of most other clubs have not changed radically. Of the organizations that are on an operating budget from the SAFC, BSG is the second-most highly funded group, still dwarfed by the $146,100 that the E-Board received this year. Following BSG, the organizations receiving the most funding are the Outing Club, at $68,000, and the McKeen Center, at $50,270.

The SAFC approved another small increase in BSG’s budget for this year in order to support newer services and events, such as free bowling on Thursdays, Winter Weekend events, the Student Activities Poster Designer, the “Food for Thought” Lectures, free food during Ivies, and the $3,000 Good Ideas Fund.

Nelson thinks that BSG’s expanded role is positive for the College’s future, saying that she believed the student government seeks to think broadly about what they can do for the student body.

“I’ve spoken to students at peer institutions where it is really separate, where student government would never dream of working with Spring Gala, or providing food for Ivies. That stuff is really important, no one is going to do it if we don’t do it.”