Student Council announced the creation of a three-year endowment that will almost double the money invested in the Support and Access Services branch and increase money given to student organizations. During Tuesday’s General Body meeting, leaders said University President Jim Ryan will allocate a minimum of $250,000 of discretionary funds over the next three years, in addition to assisting Student Council in fundraising an additional $5 million endowment.
The first round of $250,000 will be available to Student Council by the end of this semester, according to Holly Sims, vice president for administration and graduate Batten student. In light of this new source of funding, Sims will present an amended annual budget to total around $450,000 — an increase of over $130,000 from the original annual budget passed this September — during next week’s General Body meeting over Zoom.
Around $235,000 of this year’s endowment is incorporated into this new budget, which allows Student Council to remove non-Student Activities Fee funding from its original budget. The remaining $15,000 will be set aside as emergency funds.
The current Student Council budget relies on two forms of funding — the SAF and private Student Council funds. The SAF, a $58 fee included in tuition that goes towards funding student organizations, currently funds about 95 percent of Student Council’s annual budget. Student Council uses limited private funding to pay for other goods and services not approved for SAF use, which can include food and beverages, direct philanthropic contributions and religious activities.
Since Student Council is not immediately spending the entirety of the $250,000, Sims said the leftover emergency fund provides increased flexibility for future unanticipated needs.
“We do fully intend to spend almost the entirety of the $250,000,” Sims said. “One of the reasons that this [endowment] will be really useful is that we don't have to wait for any administrative approval to start spending funds. If there is an emergency from the student body -– like there's a new need for new SAS service -– it gives us an unprecedented amount of flexibility.”
Sims said that 50 percent of endowment funds will go towards the SAS — a Student Council branch established March 2021 by Abel Liu, former Student Council president and class of 2023 alumnus. The branch provides direct resources and services for students including funding transportation, textbook costs, mental health services and basic food needs.
Tichara Robertson, Student Council president and fourth-year College student, said that securing a more stable source of funding for SAS has been in the works for many years, referencing Liu’s efforts to secure long-term funding for SAS. Student Council executive board members began meeting with Ryan at the beginning of the semester to discuss the creation of an endowment.
“It’s always been a long term plan since [the SAS’s] inception in 2021,” Robertson said. “And [creating an endowment] is also responding to funding requests from SAS as a service increasing a lot.”
One popular initiative sponsored by SAS is the Next Steps Fund, which received a $15,300 allocation in the original 2023-24 annual budget. It provides students with six free sessions of outpatient therapy after their 12 free sessions through Counseling and Psychological Services have been used.
Violette Cadet, vice president for organizations and fourth-year Batten student, said this new funding source will also alleviate pressures on the SAF to cover all CIO requests to fund their programs and events. Student Council can now increase allocations to CIOs by 25 percent, from $800,000 to $1 million.
“Because we have had in the past such a limited pool [of SAF funds], CIOs might have been approved for a certain amount, but they only got allocated a percentage of [their total requested funds],” Cadet said. “We likely see that with this increase in money, we can spend an increase in the allocation rates.”
Student Council previously responded to this increased demand from CIOs for funding by increasing the SAF for students. Student Council raised the SAF by $6 to total $56 in 2022 and by another $1 to total $58 this year — an extra dollar was allocated due to a clerical error. While Roberston said she still advocates for future Student Council administrations to increase the fee to meet funding gaps for CIOs, the current endowment funding will allow them to do so more gradually.
“There still is a gap in what we can approve versus what we can allocate [to CIOs] because there's so many student organizations,” Robertson said. “There is still a need to meet inflation rates and…a need to increase the SAF…but the pressure to do so at least in the immediate term is not as great as it was before we got this money.”
The increased funds available to CIOs will be implemented in the next rolling round of CIO requests in January 2024 for the spring and summer terms.
Robertson and Sims both said that some of the details of the endowment, including future plans for fundraising and a formal process for approving spending the endowment funds, are not yet as concrete, but they have plans to continue to meet with Ryan to discuss next steps.
Roberston said that she plans to establish a committee to oversee the spending and long-term maintenance of the endowment composed by former Student Council presidents, former chiefs of SAS and representatives from Student Affairs. Student Council will introduce bylaw bills to the General Body in the coming weeks to codify the endowment and how decisions can be made in spending its funds.
After announcing the endowment and its details, the Representative Body passed three pieces of legislation — a bill to amend the bylaws to codify a process to change the SAF, a bill to approve 32 new CIOs and a proclamation to recognize a day of peace, love and joy in honor of D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler.
The proclamation established a “Day of Peace, Love, and Joy” to remember and celebrate the values of Perry, Davis Jr. and Chandler, who all tragically lost their lives in a shooting Nov. 13 of last year. Under the legislation, the University community will celebrate the day before the first home football game each Fall semester by honoring these three values reflective of the victims.
Student Council’s General Body will meet next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom to present the amended annual budget. According to Student Council’s bylaws, the budget will have to be tabled at least once before the representative body votes to approve or deny it.