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Student Union explains budget allocations

Megan Doyle | Thursday, November 11, 2010

The total budget for the Student Union hit nearly $850,000 for the 2010-11 academic year, but big-name, high-budget performers like Lil Wayne will not be coming to campus anytime soon, according to Student Union representatives.

Student Union treasurer Sarah Hurtubise oversees the allocation of Student Union funds to student government, the Student Union Board (SUB) and other student groups.

SUB received $239,000 for programming this year, and student government was allotted roughly $34,000, Hurtubise said. While these numbers differ greatly, Hurtubise said there are many factors behind fund allocation decisions.

“Sometimes there are misunderstandings about why student government does not get as much money as SUB,” Hurtubise said. “SUB obviously is great at programming, and student government always is on top of policy and awareness and making sure everything runs smoothly for the student body.”

SUB director Julia Sutton said despite having a large budget, the range of events SUB plans throughout the year limits the amount of money the programmers can spend on the major spring concert.

“We love taking suggestions from students, but most of campus does not realize how expensive a lot of talent can be,” Sutton said. “Most of the suggestions we receive are more than our entire budget. Lil Wayne, for example, is about four times our entire budget.”

SUB treasurer Pat Sturm said in addition to funding a larger annual spring concert, the SUB budget covers AcoustiCafe, Antostal, campus entertainment like The White Panda concert, the Collegiate Jazz Festival, weekly movies, the Notre Dame Literary Festival and other special events. Money is also spent on guest speakers, cultural events and football ticket lotteries.

“Our budget and the University do not really formally limit us, but we have a mission to promote viable on-campus programming,” Sturm said. “It would be great to put all our money toward a big concert, but we find it better to provide programming throughout the year.”

Programming events that appeal to all types of students is a priority for SUB, and those events cost money. The Collegiate Jazz Festival and the Notre Dame Literary Festival cost around $20,000 each, Sturm said.

“Obviously a large portion of what we spend is directed toward our big concert in the second half of the year,” Sturm said. “That concert is about 30 or 40 percent of our budget. Then we have other programs that get a different portion of that money, too.”

SUB’s budget breaks down to about $25 per person in student activity fees, Sturm said.

“We have a dual mission because we would like to be doing the biggest concerts we could with what we are given,” Sturm said. “But we have some programs that have been around a long time that need money as well.”

Student body president Catherine Soler said Notre Dame’s Student Union structure, which splits funds between SUB and student government, is unique in comparison with other schools.

“It has been interesting this year when we communicated with our counterparts at other universities to see what they receive financially,” Soler said. “Some state schools may have larger budgets but they are not split up the way we are.”

When Soler and student body vice president Andrew Bell were elected to their offices last spring, the first step to putting their platform into practice was considering how their ideas fit their budget.

“The budget definitely comes into perspective when you want to do large scale programming like the Eddy Street Commons Block Party or DeBartolo lounge renovations,” Soler said. “An important component of those decisions is just being responsible with the funds.

Student body executive controller Caitlin Pulte, who oversees student government’s budget, said student government also manages the funds for the weekend Transpo routes and newspapers available on campus. Transpo costs about $15,000.

“Transpo is 100 percent worth that piece of the budget,” Pulte said. “Students pack the buses every weekend and really appreciate the service.”

The student government budget also includes office expenses and advertising for student government events. One event typically demands around $200 for posters and other advertisements around campus, Pulte said.

“I think our budget works for what we want to do,” Pulte said. “We put on different kinds of events than SUB.”

The Financial Management Board (FMB), led by Hurtubise, allocated the total Student Union budget in April. FMB distributed money between clubs, class councils, student government, the Student Union Board (SUB) and other organizations. Each group requested a certain amount of funding based on its plans for the upcoming year.

“Every spring all these groups fill out a budget proposal,” Hurtubise said. “They identify what they think they will spend on different events all year long, what they want to budget for each of their divisions, what their ideas and what the numbers from last year were.”

After the fall semester, the Board will review the budgets again and reallocate some of the funds for the spring semester.

“If, in the winter, we see that a group did a great job with their budget all semester and did not overspend or under-spend we take that into serious consideration,” Hurtubise said. “We then go through a reallocation process in January that might give some groups more funding for the spring semester.”

Of the total amount distributed by FMB, Sturm said 85 percent came from student activity fees included in tuition, 12 percent from The Shirt proceeds and 3 percent from endowment returns.

SUB received more funding from FMB than any other single group this year. Only the sum of funds allocated to all student clubs exceeded the amount SUB received.

“We are the only full-campus programming body,” Sutton said. “We are geared toward the largest amount of people so we make more use of our funds. Our scope is a lot larger than any other group.”

SUB encourages its programmers to make use of the resources available to them, Sturm said.

“The great thing about SUB is that we have a lot of freedom to do what we think is best for the student body, and do it in a creative fashion,” Sturm said.

Programmers walk the line between quality and quantity, Sutton said.

“We want to do something for everyone, but we do not plan something unless we would want to go to the event ourselves,” Sutton said.

Hurtubise said there is not enough money to give every student group the full amount of money they would like.

“In the spring, everyone comes in new and excited to put on all these great events,” Hurtubise said. “We want to give everyone the full amount they request but we do not have the money to go around for every group to do everything they want to do.”