Illinois Student Senate looks toward creating RSO funding policy

By Megan Jones

After deciding against allocating funds to the Black Chorus for robes, the Illinois Student Senate now faces what Student Body President Damani Bolden calls “a dangerous precedent” in regards to not being able to fund other registered student organizations.

“The senate needs to undergo a fundamental reexamination of its principles and standards when it comes to serving the students at the University of Illinois,” Vice President-External Carey Ash said. “No student group should ever come before the student senate and leave empty handed.”

While considering funding the Black Chorus, the senate addressed what it would do if each of the more than 1,000 RSOs on campus asked for funding.

“The senate needs to come up with clear and articulated standards as to what types of projects are funded and by what amounts,” Ash said. “The Committee on Internal Affairs and the Committee on Financial Affairs should take a strong look at the principles of student government, and we should publish those to the student body at large.”

If all RSOs asked the senate for money, the senate would be bankrupt, which Ash said sheds light on the larger issue of expanding the senate’s budget.

“The body has set precedent that we are not in the business of allocating funds to student organizations,” Bolden said. “This is a dangerous precedent, as we are called upon multiple times throughout the year to lend a helping hand to a multitude of student organizations.”

RSOs typically receive funding from the Student Organization Resource Fee, SORF, which consists of a board of both students and staff members who facilitate reimbursements to organizations for event costs, permanent equipment purchases and more. SORF is funded through a student fee of $5.50 per student per semester.

Senator Shao Guo, senior in ACES, was one of the first to recommend that the senate should create a funding policy for these situations to guide their decisions in the future.

“It’s imperative that the ISS creates funding policies if they wish to allocate toward RSOs,” Guo said. “For example, SORF’s mission is to be just and fair and not be arbitrary, and my fear is that if there is no funding policy for the student government … (it) does not give ISS a favorable light.”

He believes that ISS should form an ad-hoc committee and appoint members to host an advertised meeting, where all RSO members are invited to give input on creating a funding policy.

“The purpose of the student government is fundamentally to serve and meet the needs of the student,” Ash said. “Now, I recognize, as do others, that the student senate can’t meet every need, but that is no excuse for not contributing something. I recognize that members of the senate have different feelings about finances, but politics and ideologies do not trump service to the student body.”

In 1985, the previous form of government on campus, the Student Government Association, had established funding policies for organizations.

“It was pretty flexible, but they still had policy,” Guo said.

The precedent came after the senate’s Nov. 20 meeting, where it denied the Black Chorus the requested $18,390 for chorus robes. The allocation vote failed 9-17 with two abstentions.

Bolden said this precedent does not align with his goals for the senate and campus outreach. He feels they need to spend time reflecting and “step up from the petty politics that (have) been created.”

SORF funds are allocated on a request basis, and not all RSOs are given an equal amount of money. All funding requests must be submitted before the event or purchase, and SORF can reimburse RSOs.

Guo said due to the requirements of SORF’s reimbursement process, RSOs would turn to the senate for funding when they are unable to fundraise enough money to make the initial purchase or host the event.

“In terms of financially poor RSOs who are unable to come up with the money beforehand, ISS can essentially co-sponsor their event or purchase,” Guo said.

He added that SORF also only funds RSOs, so organizations such as the Illini Union Board may turn to ISS in order to cosponsor events such as Illinites.

“The highest title on campus is not that of chancellor or president, it’s that of student,” Ash said. “Students have the right to demand any and everything of their fellow students, faculty, staff and administrators because at the end of the day, we are here to serve the students. Just because the SORF organization exists does not mean ISS may be derelict in its duty to serve the students it represents.”

Megan can be reached at [email protected]