Forum demystifies VSA Finance policies

The budget that Finance distributes—a total of $745,113.60 for fiscal year 2019—is comprised of the $185 per-semester, per-student activities fee as well as moneys from endowed funds. Notably, zero percent does not indicate that finance allocated $0. Courtesy of VSA Finance.

[Correction (Saturday, Mar. 2): The original version of this article stated that Mendel Jiménez ’20 and Nupur Balain ’19 were Co-Chairs of Finance. Instead, Jiménez is Chair of Finance, and Balain is Co-Chair of Finance.]

From humble beginnings, when in 1868 Vassar’s first Student Association met to discuss spending funds left over from the previous Founder’s Day, the Vassar Student Association (VSA) has since blossomed into a robust organization. The legacy of autonomy in student government is concretely exemplified by the VSA’s independence in managing its large budget. To illuminate the often opaque oversight of funds, VSA Chair of Finance Mendel Jiménez ’20 and Co-Chair of Finance Nupur Balain ’19 hosted a Forum on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. in Rockefeller Hall 300.

Following through on his campaign promise to demystify the funding process, Jiménez began by describing Finance Committee’s place in VSA’s overall structure, under the Board of Activities. The co-chairs serve as liaisons to the College’s Accounting Services, and the committee oversees allocations to organizations and pre-organizations, with VSA Senate’s approval. A majority of the budget is allotted to student organizations in April during annual budgeting, while approximately 27 percent comprises VSA internal funds. A remaining 17 percent is set aside for Special Purpose Funds, to which organizations apply throughout the year.

Students have found the fund application process confusing in the past. Jiménez elaborated in an email, “VSA Finance has been difficult to navigate…from the finance policies and procedures for submitting applications to the…guidelines by which [it] deliberates.”

To elucidate the application process, Jiménez described it in full. First, an organization submits an application to Finance Committee at least three weeks before its event. The Committee reviews the application at their weekly meeting. Then, it will recommend changes to the organization, forward the application to the larger Senate for approval, or reject the application, at which point organizations may appeal to Senate.

The money for which orgs may apply breaks down into nine Special Purpose Funds: the Speakers Fund, Social Consciousness Fund, Collaboration Fund, Conference Fund, Community Fund, Administrative Offices Fund, Pre-organization Fund, Capital Fund and Discretionary Fund.

Jiménez emphasized his hope for student engagement, writing, “Our goal is to create a more informed constituency that recognizes the value of self-governance…[and] is motivated to join the democratic processes which govern [our funds’] distribution.”

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