At the most recent meeting on Sunday, March 25, Vassar Student Association (VSA) Vice President for Finance Alex Koren ’13 proposed an omnibus amendment to the VSA Bylaws, seeking to make substantial changes to the Annual Budgeting process, and the organization of VSA’s finances. Among his proposals is a new program through which student organizations can apply to rollover their funds from one academic year to the next.
While we at The Miscellany News endorse the spirit of this rollover program, we hold some reservations about its mechanics.
As presented last Sunday, the amendment provided for unanimous VSA Executive Board approval before a rollover may be granted to student organizations. At presstime, however, this requirement has been purged from the initial proposal, and we at The Miscellany commend Koren for this decision. The unanimity requirement was an unreasonably high threshold, and we felt that such a decision should be left to a larger body of VSA Council members, whether it be the Finance Committee, an ad-hoc committee created exclusively for this purpose, or the full VSA Council.
We had serious concerns that the unanimous approval required for rollover budgets affords individual members of the Executive Board far too much power over organizations, and could potentially lead organizations that have conflicted with the VSA in the past to have reservations about bringing their proposals to the Board. Organizations must feel secure in making requests about their long-term budget or be critical of the VSA leadership, and this requirement did not facilitate that by any means.
Instead, we feel the Finance Committee should first review and vote on each applying organization’s proposal before it goes to vote before the full VSA Council. We at The Miscellany News feel it is essential that a larger body vote on any issue that has the potential to affect the long-term future of an organization’s financing and budgeting plans. Organizations that were denied rollover funds, either by the Finance Committee or the full VSA Council, must be entitled to an appeal within a specified amount of time.
While we support this latest change to the amendment, there are still aspects that could stand improvement. For one, we are of the belief that there is a clear need for periodic review of organizations’ rollover budgeting status. However, organizations that are granted rollover funding one year should not fear losing that capital the next, thus the VSA’s review of their status must occur at intervals longer than one year, or the system should in some way guarantee that savings accrued over several years cannot suddenly be lost. Rollover budgets are a step in the direction of long-term budgeting on the part of organizations and, therefore, the time between reviews must be accordingly longer.
We are troubled that Koren’s amendment strikes the guaranteed rollover upon which The Miscellany News, Vassarion and WVKR have and continue to rely. Although we cannot speak for the Vassarion or WVKR, this automatic rollover that The Miscellany News has depended upon is an absolute necessity, and its absence from the omnibus amendment is a serious cause for concern. And while we do not claim to be the mouthpiece for these other organizations, our suggestions will be beneficial for all organizations whose finances are structures similar to ours.
We at The Miscellany News feel that exceptions must be made to the general application process for student organizations with certain particular financial structures. The Miscellany News, for example, has high capital costs which we spread over several years with the automatic rollover. These include the cost of hardware, software and other vehicles that we use to support our print and online content. If that rollover were threatened, as it is now, we would need to rely on the VSA Capital Fund for these expenses, placing a great burden on one particular year’s VSA finances and jeopardizing the consistency of our product. While we recognize that one motivation behind the amendment is to prevent organizations from going into debt and enforce financial responsibility, those groups with a strong track record of fiscal prudence should be recognized and rewarded with stable budgets; those within this set with a unique need for this kind of stability need be made to feel even more secure that the VSA is supportive of its efforts.
The Miscellany News also earns the bulk of its income at the very end of the year, often after Annual Budgeting has taken place, and much of this income comes from off-campus. In this way, we generate revenue for the community instead of recycling on-campus funds. This income could be lost without a rollover, and future Editorial Boards would be disincentivized from seeking end-of-year or summer advertisements if they knew their earnings would be lost.
The original workaround that provided The Miscellany News with automatic rollover funding was and is essential to its financial stability and the financial stability of other organizations like it. We firmly believe that there must be automatic rollover exceptions written into the VSA Bylaws for a separate group of organizations with these specific budgeting needs. It is important that the VSA acknowledge that different organizations will have strikingly different budgeting needs and act and accommodate its allocation policies accordingly.
We at The Miscellany News urge members of the VSA Council to block this amendment before it comes to a vote this Sunday. While, as it stands, it no longer places undue power among individual members of the Executive Board (any one of whom could have prevented an organization from receiving rollover funds), it still hampers the ability of capital-intensive, year-round earning organizations to fulfill their missions.
The Staff Editorial reflects the opinion of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.