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Sunday, March 07, 2021

As usual, it all started with an email.

The subject line “SG Allocations: Funds available!” may lead you to believe that funds are available. That is most certainly not the case.

The email, sent to leadership of organizations under Student Activities and Involvement, merely goes over how much funding has been allocated and how much has yet to be allocated. To say that funds are available is to ignore the glaring fact that the amount of funding requested by student organizations exceeded the amount originally budgeted for within an hour of requests opening on Oct. 2.

I do not regret likening the new budget process to the Hunger Games, as that’s mostly what it turned out to be. 

Docutraq, the system that we use to submit budget requests, crashed for the first time at 8 a.m. when requests opened. By 8:56 a.m., the amount of money requested by student organizations had already exceeded the $812,137 originally allocated for Spring. 

Not every request submitted by 8:56 a.m. will be approved in full, so requests sent after may still receive funding; however, the number of additional requests that will be approved is an unknown variable. Additionally, an unknown amount of money that wasn’t spent in the Fall will roll over to the Spring. If we assume that 15 percent of the alloted student organization budget from Fall ($557,727.71) went unspent, then about $83,659 should be rolling over, which, given a little back-of-the-envelope math, means that requests submitted by 9:17 a.m. and potentially including the minutes after should be in the clear. 

To be clear, I just picked that 15 percent number since it sounds reasonable. The people who have the actual numbers just aren’t exactly the communicating type, which is why the public is cursed with my guesstimates.

All in all, there were 1,399 submitted budget requests and only 370 of them were submitted by the soft cut-off of 8:56 a.m. Behind the 370 requests are 158 organizations. Behind the other 1,029 requests are 307 organizations, 200 of which did not submit any requests by the soft cut-off. Most of those 200 organizations will not receive funding — and they don’t know that yet.

We need to let the organizations that are still in fiscal limbo know the reality of their situation so they can make alternative plans ASAP — but we aren’t. Instead, we’re still sending out cheery “funds available” emails that fail to acknowledge how terrible, horrible, no good, very bad this budget cycle has gotten.

Anyone who’s seen the budget request data knows it’s beyond obvious that the majority of requests submitted will be denied. By 9:44 a.m., the amount of money requested for the Spring exceeded the amount of money that we budgeted for student organizations for the entire school year ($1,376,531). We could — and should — have closed requests by 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 2 to save people the trouble of submitting requests that will almost certainly be denied.

This new system was supposed to be fair. It’s our fault that Docutraq crashed, which directly resulted in organizations not being able to submit their requests on time. It’s our fault that we kept budget requests open even when there was no hope of them getting approved. 

Does that sound fair to you?

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Zachariah Chou is a UF political science senior and serves as the Murphree Area Senator

 

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