SFC Leaves Strays In The Cold

Part 1 in a 2-part Series

Who has enough money? Members of various student organizations have often asked this question.
Many students take advantage of chartered organizations that provide opportunities ranging from learning a musical instrument to taking part in environmental activism. Yet some still aren’t aware of what these groups go through in order to acquire the funds necessary to operate properly. 

For much of its existence the Oberlin Stray Rescue has had problems acquiring the funds it needs to allow students to adopt stray animals and walk dogs housed in a local shelter. This year was no exception, when, as the Review reported in December, OSR was forced to euthanize 11 cats with FIP, a highly contagious disease. According to junior Elisabeth Kidder, the club’s president, and learning assistance intern Nicole Palmer, the treasurer, that decision was made because OSR could not afford the cost to isolate each cat for 30 days in order to determine which had the deadly disease.
Like other chartered organizations, OSR is funded by the Student Finance Committee. SFC oversees distribution of money from a $400,000 fund that is collected from the $168 activity fee paid annually by each student (except those on leave). To receive funding for their activities, organizations present a budget proposal to the committee in the spring for the following year. Thoroughly itemized, the budget must include every expense projected by the group for the entire year. Before the budgets are voted on, the committee meets twice with each organization to attempt to reach an understanding on its budget, then spends a day or two in April reviewing all 150 proposals and finalizing budget decisions.

“When reviewing budgets we look to make sure that we are the last source of funding, whether the desired activity is necessary for the student organization to function and whether this activity meets student needs,” the SFCsaid, in response to a pre-written set of questions. “We also look for itemized and clear budgets and to see how the organization has spent its funding in the past.”
The Oberlin Stray Rescue was allocated $325 for the 2000-2001 school year, as compared to the $730.85 it had received the previous year, mirroring a trend of organizations seeing their budgets cut this year [see next week’s article]. It did receive another $2,555 in an appeal after receiving this allocation, but that still didn’t cover its expenses. One of the reasons OSR is under-funded, Kidder said, is that the SFC did not pay enough attention to the needs stipulated in the group’s initial budget proposal. “I’m really disappointed about how our budget was first reviewed. It seemed like they didn’t read it,” she said.
Outside of the OSR’s normal expenses that would have been included in this initial budget, such as animal food and the spaying and neutering of strays, it would have cost $10 a day to isolate each cat when the FIP epidemic hit. This quarantine would have totaled more than $3,000.
However, SFC has a clearly defined appeals process through which chartered organizations can request additional funds. In the fall, organizations that didn’t get all the funds they requested can appeal the decision. Even if the group’s situation has not changed, rearrangements of SFC members and organizational officers mean there is a chance to start with a semi-clean slate.

Additionally, if unforeseen expenses arise or there is a financial emergency the organization can request ad-hoc funding from the money left over after allocations and appeals. Last spring, SFC withheld $40,000 to ensure there would be money available for appeals and ad-hoc requests, according to its posted budget figures. 
Because the outbreak of FIP occurred at the end of last semester, OSR did not have an opportunity to make an ad-hoc request before something had to be done about the disease. “We had a limited amount of time, and we had to make a decision,” Kidder said. “We didn’t try [to ad-hoc]. There was no way we were going to get a hearing.”
Veterinary care for animals has become a point of contention in the OSR’s budget. “This care has not been funded by the SFC because it does not directly benefit students,” senior Erika Hansen said. Hansen recently resigned as organizational coordinator of the Student Senate. As organizational coordinator, she was automatically a voting member of the SFC, where she had served for two and a half years.
“SFC gives the organization money for publicity so that they can get the word out about the animals that are available for adoption and SFC also provides the group with some supplies that assist OC students in caring for the animals, such as leashes,” Hansen said. “However, SFC has consistently ruled that Student Activity Fee money should not be used to pay for veterinary bills.” 
According to Palmer and Kidder, veterinary care is necessary not just to control the animal population, but also to ensure the safety of students. “We can’t give students a cat that’s not spayed or neutered and hasn’t been vaccinated,” said Kidder, adding that the College would not want to take responsibility for the possibility of a student getting a disease like rabies. “If we don’t get medical care for the cats, we can’t involve students,” she said.
Not all organizations have had such difficult experiences. Junior Lisl Walsh, who just became a co-president of the Oberlin Swing Society, said she feels the SFC is doing the best it can. “I think it’s pretty fair,” Walsh said. “I’ve heard that the groups that get a lot of money have pretty decent reasons for it.” Although she doesn’t feel the Swing Society got the money it needed, Walsh said she didn’t think her organization’s request was treated unsually. “I don’t think we’re getting fucked over any more than any organization is getting fucked over,” she said.
Although it isn’t an expectation that a specific group will be singled out intentionally by the SFC, Walsh said that most organizations expect to get half of the funds they request. To counter this, she said, most organizations pad their initial budget requests. “It’s the getting of the money [that is difficult],” she said. “We have to look like we know what we’re doing to get any money. As a treasurer, that was the advice I got from other organizations’ treasurers.”
The continuing members of the SFC are sophomore Adam Seidel, junior Andre Street, first-year Monica Jackson, senior Rachel Garland, senior Kimberley Clarke and junior Matthew Pierce. Replacing Hansen as organizational coordinator of the Student Senate is sophomore John Byrne, who will also take over her duties on the SFC.


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