FUSAB's Budget Takes Historic Hit
As most students on campus have probably noticed, student activities look a bit different this year.
Although the SGA budget runs on the surplus “use-it-or-lose-it” principle, last year’s surplus was forgiven due to unforeseen circumstances with COVID-19.
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Before the start of each school year, students receive their Furman invoices to see the breakdown of tuition and pay for the semester ahead; room and board, classes, and the semesterly $190 Student Government Association (SGA) fee. Every student pays the mandatory SGA fee each semester, but some wonder “what is my money going towards?”. As was previously addressed in The Paladin’s “SGA's COVID-19 Budget Breakdown” article, the SGA constitution disperses the money it receives, both from Furman and from students, to fund all SGA-sponsored Organizations and At-Large Organizations. Perhaps the most infamous of all these organizations is none other than the Furman University Student Activities Board, commonly known as FUSAB.
But, as most students on campus have probably noticed, student activities look a bit different this year. FUSAB President junior Sam Gary and FUSAB VP of Finance sophomore Danielle Drury helped answer some questions about COVID-19 impacts on the FUSAB budget, and how FUSAB worked hard to ensure student life on campus could still thrive amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Each academic year, the SGA constitution allocates approximately 30% of its budget to fund FUSAB. According to Gary, this 30% allocation cannot change much without the approval of SGA’s board, or a change in the SGA constitution which would require the approval of students in a vote. Unless Furman’s business office overrides SGA and forces a budget change, FUSAB can always count on receiving a significant portion of the SGA budget. But, one major issue with fund allocation, according to Drury, is the mystery of the exact dollar amount of this 30% allocation. “I don’t receive the monetary value until nearly halfway through the semester,” said Drury, who instead bases all of the event budgets on information from previous years.
Most events occurring this semester were planned last semester. But according to Drury, this year’s FUSAB budget is significantly less than last year’s, and both Gary and Drury described the SGA budget as “somewhat opaque”, which only makes their job more difficult. Although FUSAB knows the percentage of the budget they will get, the exact dollar amount is not known to them until well into the semester, which makes planning ahead hard. And although the percentage allocation did not change significantly, Drury noted that working with a smaller dollar amount in the beginning, but not knowing that exact dollar amount, was even harder than what she would experience under normal circumstances.
Although the SGA budget runs on the surplus “use-it-or-lose-it” principle, last year’s surplus was forgiven due to unforeseen circumstances with COVID-19. Like Drury, Gary was also disappointed by the budget reduction, as FUSAB was given no notice, nor a definite explanation as to why the decrease occurred. Gary is in the process of investigating the budget change, but currently has no answers. Neither Gary nor Drury can predict what will happen to next year’s FUSAB budget.
As for event planning, FUSAB has four sub-committees each responsible for certain fields: Concert, Annual, Off-Campus, and Special Events. Given COVID-19 precautions, many well-known annual events like the LDOC celebration, Winter Wonderland, and spring concert have all been impacted. Committees were instead redesigned and committee allocation was also changed to accommodate the change in plans. Now, members from all committees help with tabling, virtual events, and big events like this semester’s “Data Match”. While committees still oversee events independent from each other, the collective work FUSAB has been doing made money distribution more difficult for Drury, who had to quickly adapt to this uncertain environment.
Even with the reduced budget and COVID-19 restrictions, FUSAB manages to work closely with the Office for Student Involvement (OSII) to create events for students. Although the operational phases on campus created obstacles for many organizations, Gary said that “at the moment, the administration is more willing to allow events to happen.” Most of the events thus far have been grab-and-go such as Valentine’s build your own bouquet, or the board game pick-up that occurred earlier this semester when campus was still in the Orange Operational Phase. Of course, the administration still requests that FUSAB acts carefully when hosting events and requests that the organization makes sure social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols are still followed.
When comparing to previous years, campus interaction and engagement have been relatively low for obvious reasons. The decrease in participation and increase in restrictions forced FUSAB to “figure out creative ideas within the box, and then work to go outside of the box,” according to Gary. He added that FUSAB has made an effort to host “more intentional” events that can help revive safe social interactions while still giving the student body room to have fun and enjoy college life. Both Gary and Drury noted that this school year has been a learning process for FUSAB, and as the spring semester progresses attendance at FUSAB events continues to increase, a trend they hope will continue for the duration of the spring.