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Members approve future budget

Mary Kate Malone | Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Members of the Council of Representatives exerted their most powerful authority when they approved the Student Union budget for the 2005-06 school year at Monday’s meeting.

This year’s discretionary allocations totaled nearly $361,000, a figure slightly higher than last year’s allocation of nearly $357,000.

But funding requests far exceeded the amount of money available. Student Union organizations requested over $577,100 in funds, almost double the total amount allocated.

The Club Coordination Council appealed for more funds for campus clubs and organizations as a response to an increase in the number of clubs from 166 to 174 and a twofold increase in the number of active members.

Clubs and organizations were guaranteed $252,987 for the year, but they appealed for additional funds totaling $98,632 over the hard-line allocation. The Financial Management Board agreed to allocate $30,000 more than the guaranteed allocation, cutting down the original appeal by 20 percent.

The budget passed unanimously.

In addition to passing next year’s budget, members debated Monday between two possible options for improving online book exchange between students.

Seniors Chris Kelly and Aaron Wenger, founders of NDBay, were invited to the meeting to speak to members about the possible purchase of the book-buying Web site by student government.

The two founders, who will be in different cities after graduation and have been considering selling the site, said they would likely ask between $5,000 and $8,000 for it.

“Student government should look at this as an investment. This is something you can make money on,” Kelly said.

Currently, there are no fees to join NDBay. Profits are made by selling advertising space, which Kelly said could provide student government with more funds.

“We don’t take a cent from the students. All the revenue comes from advertising,” Kelly said.

NDBay, founded in December 2002, is a Web site that allows Notre Dame students to buy and sell used textbooks at lower prices than those charged by the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore. Last year, students saved a total of $13,000 after using the site, Kelly said.

Should student government decide to purchase the site, Kelly and Wenger said one staff member could maintain the site by putting in 20 to 30 hours a semester.

“When we created the site, we tried to make it as self-sufficient as possible,” Wenger said. “Only a small amount of time is needed to maintain it. And that time is usually just for small administrative details.”

Council members posed questions about copyright infringement with EBay, but Kelly said his lawyers had reassured him that no laws had been violated with the use of the NDBay domain name.

“Our lawyers tell us that for us to be infringing, people would have to be confusing our products – they’re not,” Kelly said.

Kelly and Wenger also noted that Georgetown University’s GBay, a Web site similar to NDBay which is operated by their student government, has never faced any opposition from EBay.

Entrepreneurial Club president Ryan Eggenberger and club member Nate LaFerle then took the floor and presented representatives with the second option, which would allow the club to create its own book exchange Web site that would be a direct competitor with NDBay, should Wenger and Kelly decide to continue with it after graduation.

This option would decrease the cost to student government, which has allocated $600 to be used for the cost of labor for creating a Web site.

Eggenberger said his club could create and maintain a Web site that would be superior to NDBay.

“NDBay has one fundamental flaw, and that is that once two students agree on a transaction, it is up to them to figure out how to actually exchange the books,” LaFerle said. “Our Web site would facilitate credit card transactions.”

Eggenberger and LaFerle said they would likely use Pay Pal, an online credit card transaction system, to facilitate the transactions between students. This would cut staffing costs and be more reliable than a self-created credit card system.

Furthermore, Eggenberger and LaFerle said their Web site would include prices from other online bookselling Web sites like Amazon.com, and also facilitate changes between the Hammes bookstore and students – though representatives doubted the feasibility of this.

“We can make it so you never have to leave your desk. That is the fundamental difference between our site and NDBay,” Eggenberger said.

Student Union treasurer Mike Marshall noticed a paradox in the discussion. Should student government decide to purchase NDBay, he said, the Entrepreneurial Club could still pursue its Web site plans and become direct competitors with the student government-funded Web site, using funds allocated to them by student government.

“We’ll pay X dollars for NDBay while also condoning a club to compete with us. But if I’m in the Entrepreneurial Club, I would not try to go up against the Student Union,” Marshall said.

The representatives then voted to close the meeting before discussion continued any further.

Council members also approved Stephen Friend and Taria Graves as assistant student union treasurers and Matt Adams as student business board manager.