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SOBAC budget deficit prompts request for increased funding

<p>SOBAC co-chairs Page Soper and Muhammad Coovadia handled the student organization funding process this year.</p>

SOBAC co-chairs Page Soper and Muhammad Coovadia handled the student organization funding process this year.

Editor's note: The Collegian received $6,029.81 of its $10,513.98 requested funding.

The streamlined application process for funding allocated by the Student Organization Budget and Appropriations Committee (SOBAC) this year encouraged more student organizations to apply but resulted in a massive deficit, prompting SOBAC members to request additional funding.

SOBAC co-chairs Page Soper and Muhammad Coovadia, both seniors, were tasked with allocating funds and made decisions with their team, which comprises three students from their respective student governments and a faculty adviser.

Soper and Coovadia have served as members of SOBAC for the past three years, and said their goal this year had been to make the application process easier. They organized focus groups and held office hours where organizations could get help with their applications, and saw a significant increase in the caliber of requests, Soper said.

“Every year we do have a deficit — the ask is bigger than what we have — but this year it was really clearly evident because when we did our first round of cuts, we had $44,000 we still needed to cut,” Soper said.

Fifteen more clubs applied for funding this year compared to last year, Coovadia said. Last year, 57 out of 79 eligible organizations applied, and this year, 72 out of 77 applied, he said. 

“People weren’t asking for things that were ineligible for funding or not well thought-out,” Coovadia said. “Almost everything brought value to campus. Almost everything we saw was eligible for funding, but we had to make decisions based on which organization has thought this out well and has more numbers to support their claims.”

SOBAC members are in the early stages of meeting with partners and stakeholders to demonstrate the need for additional student organization funding, said SOBAC faculty adviser Vittoria Tripp, who is also the university budget coordinator. She said the process of requesting more funding required SOBAC members to look at data collected over the past three years. 

“We realize that new initiatives are always being presented on this campus and understand that resources are competitive,” Tripp said. “However, we truly believe we have a strong case to make and hope that the next steps after presenting this data will be toward a permanent increase in annual SOBAC funding.”

SOBAC presented their pitch for an increased funding pool to the Student Development Leadership Team on Tuesday, April 23. The leadership team is composed of administrators who report back to the Board of Trustees.

The deficit will affect student organizations' plans.

The SEEDS Project, Students Engaging and Enacting a Dialogue on Service, received less funding than last year, which will affect their annual spring break trips, said senior Victoria Williams, outgoing SEEDS president.  

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Williams said organizing additional fundraising efforts or establishing dues to make up for the lack of funding would decrease the diversity of students who participate in SEEDS trips.

Specifically, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds might not be able to contribute financially, she said.  

“For instance, I come from a low-income family and asking my relatives to donate even like $50 to an organization is a lot,” Williams said.

With the funds SEEDS has currently, there is fear of cutting trip size, she said. 

“It’s weighing the cost and benefits of should we have the same amount of people and decrease our activities and housing situations, or are we going to cut the number of students that get these really great experiences, which is sad to think about,” Williams said.  

The Sirens, University of Richmond's all-female a cappella group, also received less funding than expected. The Sirens' president, junior Julia Siewert, said it was unclear what was prioritized when SOBAC made cuts. 

“The guidelines were good, but I wish they were more transparent about what would have been cut or why they fund some groups versus different groups,” she said.

Siewert said she would have budgeted differently, and that other groups may have as well, if there had been more clarity about what would have been cut. 

“I feel like they could have told us more about [why cuts were made] instead of having this dynamic of student government and everyone else,” she said. 

The main hope Siewert has for upcoming years is more transparency, she said.  

“It’s amazing that we have the opportunity to even get funding for groups like this,” she said. “I just wish [SOBAC] was more open about certain policies or unspoken things that they do or prioritize.”

SOBAC is now in the position student organizations were when they presented requests for SOBAC funding, Coovadia said about SOBAC's presentation to the Student Development Leadership Team.

“Now we are the ones presenting to outsiders, so-to-speak, who don’t understand the process or our organization as much as we do,” he said. 

Soper hopes that changes will be made this summer if more funds are allocated, she said. The fiscal year ends in July, so fund allocations, if any, are likely to be made by then

Contact news writer Emma Davis at

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