TCU Allocations Board begins budgeting process for student organizations

Belinda Xian / Tufts Daily

As the spring semester kicks into gear, so begins the process of creating next year’s activities budget, a task handled by the Allocations Board (ALBO) of Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate, which includes nine members.

Each year, ALBO distributes the proceeds from the Student Activities fee — $328 per student for the 2015-16 academic year to the 180 student organizations recognized by the TCU Judiciary. For Fiscal Year 2015, the budget was $1,729,456.30.

The two main functions of ALBO are budgeting and supplementary funding, TCU Treasurer and ALBO Chair Shai Slotky explained. According to TCU Treasury’s Procedures Manual (TPM), organizations submit their budgets for the following year each spring. Budget signatories meet with ALBO twice during this process: first to discuss the preliminary budgets, and the other to talk about revisions, Slotky said.

“Every group has two [signatories] and not one because we don’t let signatories sign off on their own paper, because we believe in checks and balances,” Slotky, a junior, said. “We know the Treasury doesn’t start and end at the Treasury.”

According to the TPM, another feature of the Treasury is its surplus, which is used in case of emergency if all student groups cannot be covered by their budgeted funds. It also helps groups use money they did not spend in previous semesters.

“When groups don’t spend all of their budget, this money is rolled back into our surplus account,” Associate Treasurer Jack Colelli, a sophomore, told the Daily in an email. “If a group has unbudgeted income that remains at the end of the year, they may apply for this sum to be rolled into their budget for the following academic year.”

Additionally, there is a $100,000 supplementary fund this year for groups to fund things outside their budgets, such as unforeseen expenses, speakers and collaborative events, according to Slotky.

“That’s where the Allocations Board really gets its feet wet every week,” Slotky said.

To get money from this pool, groups have to submit a supplementary funding form and meet with ALBO to discuss their requests. 

“During these meetings, we are able to talk openly with the groups about what is essential to their group while also remaining conscious of our financial restrictions,” Colelli said.

Slotky agreed, commenting on the openness of these meetings.

“No one in the room ever goes, ‘Don’t give them money because we need to save it for someone else,'” Slotky said. “The thought is always in the moment.”

From there, ALBO makes a recommendation, which then goes to the Senate for review.

“We never deny someone[‘s] outright funding,” Slotky said. “As long as the funding is in the rules, we will accommodate the student needs.”

Slotky said that that there are set rules in the TPM, which are interpreted by the ALBO members. He explained that action can be taken against ALBO if bias is noted.

“Every allocations board serves differently – it’s the differences in people,” he said. “Every budget is looked at independently… if an Allocations Board member is in a group, they excuse themselves to not put in any bias.”

However, Julia Malleck, a senior who runs a weekly writing circle called Parnassus, experienced difficulty obtaining funds from ALBO last semester.

“We were just having our regular end of the year event where we wrap up and discuss leadership in the new semester… and we wanted to talk about opportunities with our younger club members and also with the general Tufts community,” she said. “We wanted $37 for cheese, crackers and tea.”

It was the only money Parnassus had requested all semester, Malleck explained. She also stated that each semester, groups are supposed to be allowed $30 for food, no questions asked – and Parnassus had never asked for those funds for their General Interest Meeting. 

Malleck then met with ALBO and spent 10 minutes explaining the food request. She received a phone call in the evening with their rejection, which she found to be strange.

“It’s not professional; it doesn’t leave any record of the interaction for the club,” she said, adding that she would have preferred an email, because it leaves a written transaction of the exchange for both ALBO and requesters.

The rule in question was Section 3.3 of the TPM, which reads “It is the feeling of the Treasury that programming should not be centered on food; food should not be added incentive to an event.”

Later Malleck appealed the decision to the entire Senate, whom she said used the same arguments as those presented in the TPM.

“They debated this again for like 10 minutes, they even had a 2/3 majority vote to extend the debate time by 10 minutes, so we spent around 40 minutes in there talking about the cheese and crackers in question,” she said.

Malleck said that the disagreement highlighted issues with the Senate and the budgetary process.

“This event for me crystallized some very apparent problems in [the] Senate,” she said. “Number one is the rules they follow and the procedures they follow… There were very few people questioning the rationality of the proceedings. [One] other issue with ALBO that I have is they’re not directly elected – they’re first Senators and then internally selected from the Senate to become ALBO members.”

Ultimately, Malleck said Parnassus received $50 from Joe Golia, the director of the Office for Campus Life. Overall, she found the process with ALBO and its outcome confusing.

Monty Python could not have written a better skit about bureaucracy,” she said.

Despite Malleck’s frustrating experience with the TPM guidelines, Colelli cited them as crucial to maintaining fairness.

“We want to ensure that every group is treated equally and by the same standards; therefore, we stick to the Treasury Procedures Manual when making decisions on budgets,” he said. “Every group is subject to the same rules for how and what we can fund.”

Slotky says that ALBO does all it can to ensure that money is allocated correctly.

“I know a lot of groups really feel that sometimes they’re antagonized, and all I can say is that on our end, we try as hard as we can to follow the rules,” he said. “People talk about semantics and certain dollars here and there, but money is money is money. This body has functioned and this union has stayed so long because people do stick to the rules.”