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Monday, March 04, 2024

Dear Student Organizations: Help is on the way

Student Government’s system for funding student organizations is less functional than Florida’s unemployment system.

Remember how we ran out of money within around 90 minutes during the fall funding cycle? This most recent cycle, we allocated all our available funding to fulfill requests made within seven minutes after we opened the form for submissions. Yep; if you got in your request after 10:07 a.m. on the day the cycle opened, your request was put on hold because we ran out of money.

This was after the website Student Government uses for money matters, DocuTraq, crashed twicethree times if you include in the fall—forcing us to rely on Google Forms.

I have been keeping student leaders informed on what truly has become a seasonal funding crisis, and I would like to share some recent developments with the public.

Money typically rolls over between the fall and spring semesters; money that was allocated to student organizations but not spent gets added to the pot of money that is allocated to student organizations for the spring. That is not the case at the end of the spring semester, as that money is supposed to go into the Student Government reserves, per the 800 codes.

For those unfamiliar, the 800 codes govern Student Government finances. Our reserves account is where all our leftover money goes at the end of the year and we have used that money for a variety of things such as funding Library West’s 24/7 hours or Reitz Union construction projects. It is also the source of money behind our $500,000 rent relief bill.

In the wake of the fall funding cycle, I wrote a bill to transfer $800,000 to help student organizations that didn’t receive funding that cycle, but there just wasn’t the political will to help student organizations and my bill was never even given a hearing.

Later that semester, in November, one of my colleagues, Senator Sana Nimer (Inspire, District D), discussed with me the issue of money from the spring not rolling over into the fall.

She had a finished draft by January, but the process of getting the bill passed through the Senate took so long, Nimer graduated before the bill was finally passed through first readings last week.

Once the bill passes second readings next Senate meeting, it will be the first revision to the 800 codes since the entire chapter was revamped last summer. As you may recall, Student Government (technically UF) got sued and as part of the settlement, we had to toss out our old funding model and replace it with something new.

I think we can all agree that Student Government did a bad job with the replacement funding model.

The bill won’t fix the problems inherent with our funding system but does stand to roll over an estimated $600,000 to help fund student organizations in the fall cycle. This money is available due to all the programs and events that were canceled in the spring semester due to COVID-19 and we should be able to use it to approve requests that student organizations sent in as “late” as 10:12 a.m.

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This is the first of hopefully many revisions to the 800 codes to fix our broken system. I’ll be working on many more this summer. For now, hold tight since come July, we should have a second round of budget hearings to fund your programs and events.

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

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