In an effort to increase Senate transparency, the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) published the fund allocations for individual clubs and organizations in the 2012-2013 year, rather than a big-picture breakdown as in the recent past. Senate voted to publish the full line-item budget in early February, and it was published on their website April 9. ASPC also held budget hearings on April 12 for Pomona-only clubs and on April 13 and 14 for 5C clubs, in which funding for the 2013-2014 year was considered.
Although many comparable clubs received very different sums of money from the ASPC budget committee, ASPC Vice President of Finance Faye Wang PO ’13 said there are many factors that cannot be observed just by looking at the line-item budget released by ASPC.
“Depending on how much the club has spent the previous year or several years before, they might have more money in their account,” Wang said. “Also, some clubs have their own income, so the amount that you see is not the operating budget of the club. Many clubs are 5C or 7C organizations, so Pomona’s not the only one giving money to the organization.”
ASPC funds are allocated based on a variety of considerations, including impact on campus, money received the previous year, and general need. Pomona student participation is also a primary factor; clubs with more Pomona students taking part will receive more funding from ASPC, while those with fewer Pomona students and more from the other colleges will receive a larger percentage of their funding from the colleges with more students involved, according to Wang.
“[The published budget is] only a small picture of what an actual group’s budget is,” said Ellie Ash-Balá, Assistant Director of the Smith Campus Center (SCC) and Senate Adviser. “In just looking at it, it may seem that there are inequities, but when you see the whole picture, maybe they’re rolling over, or maybe [Claremont McKenna College] gave more.”
Although some discrepancies appear to exist, such as unequal funding for a cappella groups or men’s and women’s ultimate frisbee teams, Wang said that there are reasons behind each decision. For example, the Claremont Shades receive their own income from hosting the Southern California A Cappella Music Festival and selling albums, while other a cappella groups do not have outside funding. In the case of ultimate frisbee, the women expanded more quickly than expected and thus had new jerseys to purchase, leaving them in need of more funds than usual, according to Wang.
“If a group has enough money to do what they want to do without our help, then it doesn’t really make sense for us to spend that money,” Wang said. “For some clubs it’s fairly constant, because they tend to spend the same amount of money every year, but others, especially clubs that are newer, tend to receive less money.”
Funds are allocated after the budget hearing process, which begins with organizations submitting a detailed request including how much money they are requesting, how much money they received in the previous year, a breakdown of expenses for the year, and an explanation of the club and what it does. Representatives then come for a 10-minute meeting, including a question-and-answer period with the Budget Committee (comprised of the ASPC President, North Campus Representative, South Campus Representative, Vice President of Campus Events, and Sports and Clubs Commissioner, in addition to the Associate Director of the SCC, President-elect, and Vice President-elect as non-voting members).
“I’ve been pretty impressed by the thoughtfulness, conscientiousness of the budget committee. It’s not really capricious. They’re pretty consistent at what they look at,” said Ash-Balá, who is also a non-voting member of the ASPC Budget Committee.
ASPC President Sarah Appelbaum PO ’13 said that clubs that present a clear, organized plan with specific goals and possible events are much more likely to receive the funding that they ask for than a club with a vague presentation. Often, the committee advises organizations to come back later when they have more specific plans. For this reason, and in order to provide additional funds to organizations that need them later in the year, ASPC holds an unallocated pot of money that it can draw from later in the year.
According to Wang and Appelbaum, publishing the budget details is an important step in increasing transparency and educating students about where their student fees go. Senate discussed possible difficulties, such as students becoming upset about discrepancies, especially because the other colleges do not publish their line-item budgets, according to Wang.
“I think students can make better funding requests and can better advocate for themselves if they have more of an idea of how funding works,” Appelbaum said. “I think Senate deserves to be called out if groups are getting overfunded or underfunded, because it’s not a perfect process. And I think the other schools could benefit from that as well.”
The published budget can be found at https://www.aspc.pomona.edu/senate/budget/.