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Details of Student Union Board’s budget up for debate

John-Paul Witt | Monday, February 19, 2007

The Student Union Board (SUB), responsible for bringing events like last semester’s Ben Folds concert to Notre Dame, has been mired lately in Student Senate debates about control over its budget.

Two potential resolutions dealing with limitations on who can spend SUB’s money and how much those people can spend have seen discussion on the Senate floor.

The first resolution proposes that the amount SUB can spend without authorization from the Financial Management Board (FMB) – the group that oversees SUB’s budget – be raised from the current $5,000.

The other proposes that money allotted to the Office of the President but kept in a SUB account be given entirely to student government, said student body vice president Bill Andrichik.

“The most likely [outcome] will be a compromise – student groups will have to seek approval for requests of $5,000 or a certain percentage of their budget, whichever is higher,” Andrichik said.

SUB had an initial budget of $217,000 for the 2006-07 school year, said SUB manager Patrick Vassel.

After winter break, SUB received $21,000 – its share of The Shirt proceeds, which are allocated to student groups.

SUB divides its budget between its 11 programming committees, an administrative account and an advertising account.

Concerts are by far SUB’s largest cost, though the “Issues and Ideas” fund for bringing speakers to campus is also substantial, Vassel said. The Notre Dame Literary Festival, Jazz Festival and Special Events committees are also large expenses.

Revenue from ticket sales at events is looped back into the fund to pay for programming later in the year, Vassel said.

“Anything left in the budget at the end of the year doesn’t turn over [to us], so we’re aiming for zero [left in the budget],” Vassel said.

The $5,000 limit is central to the current debate in the Senate. Vassel has argued that since SUB’s budget is much larger than other student groups, an exception to the authorization restriction should be made so that SUB can secure bigger-name artists.

If a week passes before FMB can approve an offer over $5,000, the delay can break a deal, he said.

“What we do is time sensitive. Often, artists have only a few dates open, and by the time our offer is approved, the artist is booked,” Vassel said.

SUB treasurer Steve Friend said on several occasions, top artists could not be contracted because of the delay in the approval process. The new proposal will raise SUB’s spending limit, provided that SUB gives regular updates to the FMB.

“As long as SUB is willing to keep the FMB informed of its expenditures, I am not opposed to the proposal to amend the spending limit,” Friend said. “The student body will benefit from superior performers.”

Vassel and Friend said they support the $5,000 limit for groups with smaller budgets, but argue that SUB’s size puts it in a different league.

“What [SUB] does is more significant than any other student group, and the [Student Union] constitution should reflect this,” Vassel said.

The other issue before the Student Senate relates to the funding of the Presidential Division, tasked with implementing programs directly from the Office of the President.

The funding is currently in an account controlled by SUB, which is compelled to provide funding from the account to student government when requested.

The resolution would remove the involvement of the SUB and place the account under the control of student government, something that Andrichik said he favors because the current text “creates an extra barrier for student government to withdraw its already-approved money.”

The next step in the process of changing the Constitution is the submission of draft resolutions for debate in the Senate by Oversight committee chair Chris Hollon.

“The versions [of the resolutions] my committee has endorsed [read]: an organization would be able to spend $5,000 or five percent of their budget, whichever is more, without FMB approval,” Hollon said. “This would reduce the amount of times SUB would have to seek FMB approval to a more reasonable level, while still maintaining strong student oversight over funds.”

The resolution will likely be introduced in the Senate on Feb. 28, Hollon said.