Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, February 16, 2019

Student activity fee leaves clubs scrambling

Correction appended

The student activities fee is just another example of AU misusing our money.

AU students are forming a new committee to reevaluate the distribution of student activity fee. Since 2002, the funds have been allocated in the same way: 72 percent to Student Government, 14 percent to the AU Club Council and 14 percent to the Student Media Board.

With this breakdown, SG gets $630,000 a year to spend while the AUCC and the Media Board are each forced to fight over $120,000 apiece.

Anyone involved with a student club on campus understands how little money there is to go around.

The AUCC is in charge of allocating $120,000 to about 170 student clubs. Over the years, frustration with Student Activities has built up because there never seems to be enough money for everyone. There are 170 clubs, with 170 different missions and only $120,000 to make it all happen.

The Media Board is made up of seven (possibly eight if The Eagle joins next semester) media organizations on campus. Like the AUCC, it only has $120,000 to divide between each other. Each year the lack of funds is seen more clearly. The ATV equipment is extremely outdated; AmWord is only able to publish once a semester; The Eagle is now struggling to secure a print issue.

Media organizations at AU are struggling, ironically at the same time as AU is renovating its School of Communication. With SOC on the rise, shouldn’t the media organizations on campus be given more than the minimal amount of attention?

And then there’s SG, working tirelessly to spend their entire budget.

Each year SG has money left over. This year they have made it a point to spend as close to zero as possible.

Clubs consistently ask for more money, but Student Activities will not raise the student fee because the funds allocated each semester are never entirely used.

On top of this, there is almost no accountability in the budget system. Student organizations receive money at the beginning of each semester for events. However, there is hardly any follow-up on where that money goes after the initial allocation of funds. For all we know, students could be taking your money and using it for their own purposes. With more accountability, Student Activities will be able to see where more money or less money is needed.

This applies especially to SG. Throughout this year, SG has not been as visible in years past. Kennedy Political Union brought Nick Kristof and Frank Abagnale Jr., but other than that, much of this year has been consumed with the debate over the new referendum. The campaign for or against AUSA cannot possibly use all $630,000. But who’s checking?

There is one exception: the Student Media Board. Each year, the Media Board goes through extensive budget meetings to show how they use their funds. Although it is a frustrating system, it’s a beneficial one. The follow-up on the budget creates a sense of accountability for the Media Board, and this pushes students to spend their money efficiently.

The proposed committee needs to do more than research the reallocation of funds. AU students deserve the right to know that every dollar of their Student Activity fee is being spent effectively. This committee needs to entirely reevaluate how Student Activities functions, but we cannot leave it up to them. AU students need to take their finances into their own hands. Information on SG’s budget can be asked for and, if demanded, can be changed by students. The AUCC can be pressured into holding clubs more accountable, but only if we take action.

Our money is being misused. Let’s change this. .? E

Correction: This staff editorial previously implied that AWOL, an on-campus, student-run magazine, limited itself to two issues a year because of budgetary reasons. However, AWOL puts out two issues a year to for editorial reasons.

Never miss a story.

Get our weekly newsletter in your inbox.