TCU Senate removes off-campus travel funding from budget

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate will not be including off-campus travel funding in its budget for the upcoming fiscal year, according to TCU Senator Adam Kochman.

Kochman, a junior who serves as the TCU Treasurer, emphasized that the TCU Senate will not be cutting all travel funding, but it has decided to wait until it knows how much money it has in surplus before deciding how much travel it can fund. The Senate then aims to focus on funding regional travel for groups, he said.

“We want to see how much money rolls back into our surplus, which had been … depleting for the past five years,” Kochman said.

Kochman said that when he joined the Treasury, the Senate funded off-campus travel, but it had only started doing so about five years ago. According to Kochman, a large surplus allowed for off-campus travel funding to begin.

“Once the budget is reset, come July, for Fiscal Year [2016], if the surplus is large enough for us to fund off-campus travel, specifically regional travel … [then] we want to fund that,” he said.

He explained that paying for airfare and related expenses, such as hotel rooms and registration fees, is no longer financially feasible for the Senate to undertake.

“About $65,000, at least, has come from the supplementary fund this semester … from only airfare-related costs … that is not sustainable anymore,” Kochman said.

Sawyer Dew, TCU senator and member of the Allocations Board, said that the decision the Senate has made is unfortunate but necessary given the Senate’s fiscal situation.

“It has become obvious that, fiscally, we’re in a spot where we need to make some decisions,” Dew, a junior, said.

Kochman expressed the hope that national travel can be funded in the future, but he wants to focus on funding regional travel at the present moment.

He also said that Tufts was the only school in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) that funded off-campus travel through its student government.

“Other NESCAC schools were very surprised when we told them that we were able to do so,” he said.

The changes in budgeting will also indirectly be helpful for many groups on the Tufts campus, Kochman added.

“There will be more money available, hopefully, for events on campus,” he said. “This is a move that has to be made right now to ensure that future [TCU] Senates are not financially crippled. We are not saying we do not want to fund [travel], we’re just saying not right now.”

These decisions will impact groups that travel often, such as the Tufts Model United Nations (UN) team. According to Annirudh Balachandran, president of the Tufts Model UN team, the TCU Senate’s decision came as a surprise.

“Our club focuses on traveling to conferences and competing … We train, we practice throughout the year, and then we go to conferences and compete in a few different cities, including Boston,” Balachandran, a senior, said.

The decisions made have deeply impacted the Model UN team, he explained.

“We don’t have the money to do anything, and we don’t know if we will be approved for anything going forward, so this has not only crippled us financially … but also is going to lead to some serious questions about whether or not our club, or clubs like us, can continue to exist without some sort of financial support,” he said.

According to Balachandran, the Model UN team has about 40 members, and they have contributed to their own travel and registration costs in the past.

Balachandran said that he understands why the decision was made, but believes it could have been made differently.

“Personally, I think it could have been done in a different way,” he said. “I think if there was a budget issue due to lack of a surplus … I feel like a better strategy would have maybe been to take a portion off of every club’s use, because there are clubs that don’t travel but do use a lot [of money].”

Balachandran said that this decision will affect all clubs on campus, but groups are hoping to work with TCU Senate to reach a solution.

“It’s important to note that this is something that is going to affect all students, if they are a part of a club,” he stated. “Whether you’re a traveling team like Model UN or not … this is something that is going to affect [groups], and this is something that all Tufts students … should be aware of.”

Kochman emphasized that the Senate’s decision should only temporarily prevent funding for student group travel, depending on the status of next fiscal year’s budget.

“This is not something we want to do,” Kochman said. “We would love to be able to support all of our groups as much as possible, but if we were to continue to budget for travel without being responsible about it, we would be unfairly hurting other groups. So, we would rather wait and see how much comes back into the surplus from the unspent budget from this year, and if that number is large … we will be able to fund at least regional travel. I hope it will happen.”