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My name is Isabel Dorn, and I am the new Vice President Elect of Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC). As Vice President, I will oversee the LUCC Finance Committee, which allocates funds to all of Lawrence’s student organizations.
Recently, the shortage of funds in LUCC’s budget has been one of the greatest concerns for my fellow LUCC members and the student organizations who rely on us for funding. Unfortunately, a series of misunderstandings has led to confusion and frustration on all sides. I believe transparency and communication are crucial to building a positive, functional relationship between LUCC and the student body, and I want to provide a short explanation of the current budget situation so we can increase understanding and reduce animosity.
The problems with LUCC’s budget are not any single person’s fault, and this article is not intended to throw blame on anyone involved. Our lack of funds is the culmination of unusual circumstances, organizational issues and lack of information rather than malice or negligence. I have great respect for my colleagues in LUCC who have been dedicating their time and effort into resolving this issue, and I fully believe we can get LUCC’s budget back on track without burning bridges between LUCC and the student organizations we fund.
Let’s start at the beginning. When the COVID-19 pandemic started and all student activities were moved online, student organizations began spending far less money than usual because they were not paying for in-person events. As pandemic restrictions were lifted and organizations began hosting events again, many clubs had accumulated extra money in their budgets from the pandemic year, and they were able to afford more expensive events.
Unfortunately, this surplus of money ran out quickly. Since many clubs switch out their executive boards every year, many new club leaders had never worked with pre-pandemic budgets and assumed that the larger pandemic budgets were standard. Therefore, many student organizations submitted large budget requests because they had no reason to believe LUCC could not afford to approve them. Budget requests are approved on a rolling basis throughout the year, so the LUCC budget is intended to be rationed across three terms. However, the LUCC Finance Committee approved most of the budget requests it received and gave away a large portion of its money in fall term, leaving relatively little for the winter and spring terms.
Contrary to popular belief, however, LUCC is not bankrupt. The current Finance Committee has set aside $100,000 for spring term to ensure that student organizations will have some funding for spring expenses. That said, recent inflation and the recognition of new clubs means that $100,000 is still a tight budget, so we will have to allocate funds frugally throughout the rest of the year to ensure that we do not run out of money.
The situation is not ideal for LUCC or student organizations, and to ensure it doesn’t happen again, we need to examine the factors that led to this situation and seek out solutions.
Firstly, we need to reform the budget request timeline to ensure that the members of the Finance Committee have enough time to carefully examine the budget requests. If the Finance Committee receives dozens of budget requests in the same week, they are more likely to vote on budgets without reading them closely because busy students don’t have the time to review all of them in such a short time frame. My LUCC colleague Caleb Yuan has proposed new legislation to reduce this influx, and I support his plan wholeheartedly.
From my personal experience as a class rep, I think LUCC needs to provide more extensive training for class reps given the power they hold in this organization. While the President and Vice President lead the meetings, they do not vote on anything unless there is a tie; class reps are the ones who get to approve or deny new clubs, pass legislation and allocate funds. When I won my class rep election last term, LUCC hosted a ninety-minute info session for new class reps and sent me a OneDrive full of documents without any instructions regarding how to use them. Every job has a learning curve, and it’s easy for new class reps to get carried away and approve too many budgets at the beginning of the year simply because the class rep training doesn’t warn them about how quickly LUCC can run out of funds.
I also think LUCC needs to revise its treasurer training process. Each student organization must have a treasurer to oversee the club’s expenses and request funding, and these officers must be thoroughly educated about managing club funds if we want budget requests to go smoothly. Last year, all student organizations were required to send one board member to a treasurer training session, but students were given barely a week’s notice to coordinate their schedules with the training times, and not all clubs were able to complete treasurer training. Moving forward, we need to ensure that student organizations’ treasurers are notified about training in advance and given a wide range of training dates so they can fully engage in the training process.
Finally, quick and efficient communication will mitigate situations like this in the future. LUCC is a network of people working towards a common goal, and we cannot achieve anything unless we all understand what that goal is and what obstacles lie in the way. The president, vice president, cabinet, committee chairs, class reps and student organization leaders all need to communicate about new developments in LUCC so everyone understands when circumstances change and new approaches must be taken.
The LUCC budget situation is stressful and difficult, but it is manageable. The current Finance Committee has been making adjustments to get through the rest of winter term, and when the new administration takes office in spring, my colleagues and I will continue implementing reforms to steer the LUCC budget into steadier waters.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the LUCC budget, please feel free to contact me via email. I am always open to suggestions and feedback on how to make Lawrence a better institution for all.