Students respond to SAC moratorium
Some groups believe their debt is merely due to lag times in payments, deposits
October 2, 2012, 1:03 am · Updated October 2, 2012, 1:19 am·
Since the Student Activities Council instituted a moratorium on funding for new student groups last week, some have offered mixed reactions to the decision and its implications for the future.
Some groups have commended the moratorium, believing that it will hold organizations more accountable with their budgets moving forward.
Penn Mock Trial President and College and Wharton senior Kaitlyn Hebrink said that SAC’s decision to put the moratorium in place was “very prudent.”
However, she sees the moratorium as one step toward solving potential problems that need to be tackled further down the road.
“What still needs to be addressed is that group funding rates are relatively fixed,” she said. “Currently, group dynamics are at a mismatch with the way they receive funding. If [student groups] grow too quickly, there is a better chance of them going into debt.”
She added, though, that the current debt situation — according to SAC documents, 48 of the approximately 200 SAC-recognized groups have accumulated debt since September 2011 — “has to be under control before they can address these issues.”
Mock Trial is among the 33 groups that SAC listed as owing less than $1,000 at its general body meeting on Wednesday.
Others have expressed frustration with the moratorium, citing their groups’ financial responsibility over the past year.
College senior Patrick Krieger, a current member and former president of CityStep, said that “as students at Penn, we feel a sense of entitlement — to funding, to opportunities — and the accrual of debt by student groups crosses the boundary.”
When he was president, Krieger explained that when CityStep — a SAC-recognized group which works with public school students to promote self-esteem through dance — wanted to book a venue for an event and the expenses exceeded its budget allocation, it “would go line by line on our expense sheet and make cuts until it fit within our budget.”
He added that, if groups are responsible enough with their spending, there is no reason why they should end up in debt in the first place.
Wharton sophomore and President of the International Business Review James Calvo believes the moratorium was an irresponsible decision, given how many new student groups crop up year to year.
“What I see this doing is really crippling groups that started last year and were planning on applying for SAC funding this year and are now stagnating or have now been crippled,” he said.
While SAC listed IBR as having between $1,000 and $2,000 in debt, Calvo said the group is simply waiting for payment from a company that purchased advertisement space in one of its recent publications. As a result, Calvo characterized IBR as using its SAC account as credit, rather than being in debt.
Other groups have dealt with similar situations.
For example, the executive board of the International Affairs Association — which was listed as having more than $2,000 in debt — said in an email that its debt was due to lag time in depositing conference registration fees it had already received.
Now that it has deposited those fees, the group should no longer have outstanding debt, it said.
College senior and SAC Chair Melissa Roberts said if groups clearly demonstrate that they will soon be receiving revenue sufficient to cancel their debt, they may not be subject to SAC’s sanctions for indebted groups.
According to Roberts, these sanctions could include things like budget reductions for groups that are more than $1,000 in debt.
“There are definitely some groups where they fixed a charge mistake or repaid [their debt],” Roberts said. “Unfortunately that’s not the majority of debt. The majority of debt is still outstanding at this point.”
SAC’s debt policies will next be up for discussion at its GBM on Oct. 25.