Student organization frustrated as budget requests are denied
Issues with CSI communication leave students feeling helpless about funding requests
Student organizations received an email on March 31 stating that the American University Club Council would not accept any more budget requests after they received over 330 requests during the spring semester and had reached its funding capacity.
Now, student organizers find themselves frustrated with a lack of communication from the Center for Student Involvement regarding both the budget request process and purchase requests, which are often denied with no explanation.
Typically, clubs submit budget requests for any events they would like to host through Engage. Upon receiving budget approval, they then submit specific purchase requests to the Center for Student Involvement, which ensures that requested items fit within University guidelines.
Clubs also have the option of creating their own account with CSI with money they earn from fundraisers and other events.
“It’s something that only that club has access to,” said Emma Southern, a junior in the School of Public Affairs and finance director of the AUCC. “They can request to use the money from that specific account rather than going through the budget request process with AUCC.”
Funding for clubs comes from the student activity fee, $88.50 for full-time students and $15 for part-time students. This year, the Club Council was given $225,000 to split between both semesters, leaving each semester with a balance of around $112,500 according to the AUCC Spring 2023 Financial Report.
According to Southern, the council received a high quantity of requests for larger events. Specifically, 334 unique budget requests, equalling over $320,000. Because funding is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, clubs that submitted their requests earlier in the semester were more likely to see approvals.
In an effort to accommodate all requests, AUCC was told that they could go over their initial amount and “dip into a reserve account.” They were not, however, told how much money was available in the reserve account, or how much dipping they’d be allowed to do.
“Once we were done with one of the weeks we asked, ‘Okay, how much more can we expect to be able to allocate?’ and [CSI] was like, ‘actually you have to stop funding,’” Southern said.
“The Center for Student Involvement (CSI) has not ‘run out of funding,’” Jasmine Pelaez, internal communications manager for AU, wrote to the Eagle in an email. “CSI is a department funded by AU and is not supported by the student activity fees. Allocation of funding to student clubs is managed by AUCC, including the student lead team.”
However, an email sent out to clubs and organizations stated “CSI and AUCC are not able to fund any additional budget requests.”
According to the official university website, student activity fees fund “[over 160] student-sponsored programs that contribute significantly to the intellectual and social development of the student body, serve the university academic goals, encourage student participation and leadership, and enhance the general campus environment”
According to Hannah Leeb, the chair of AUCC and a senior in the School of Communication and College of Arts and Sciences, the Club Council got around $30,000 into the reserve account before being told to “deny all budget requests and not accept any new ones.”
“It was really tough,” Leeb said. “Having to communicate to student leaders who were putting on giant events that they couldn’t have them and that we were completely out of funding.”
One of those clubs, Treble in Paradise, an a cappella group on campus, was in the middle of planning their end-of-year concert when their AUCC club advisor informed them that their budget request was “basically not worth submitting” due to lack of funding.
“It’s definitely never a smooth process,” Lilia Mitchell, the business manager for Treble in Paradise and a sophomore in SOC, said. “Sometimes they’ll reject certain items in our request, random things like scissors or poster boards.”
Club organizers say that it would be helpful to have CSI communicate more regarding both budget denials and funding limits. According to Mitchell, Treble in Paradise requested t-shirts but was denied with no explanation.
“I think it would be helpful in general to know at least how much is available to each club,” Mitchell said. “We have no idea and we just kind of go in blind.”
This article was edited by Abigail Turner, Jordan Young and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Stella Guzik.
Correction: A previous version of this article featured the headline "Student organizations frustrated after sudden funding cut-off." The headline has since been updated to read "Student organization frustrated as budget requests are denied," to better reflect the issues clubs have with AUCC.