After two years, the Student Activities Council moratorium may finally end next semester — at least partially.
SAC has announced that if its finances remain in the black at the end of its fiscal year in June, the SAC Executive Board will recommend a partial lift of the moratorium at the first General Body Meeting of the fall semester, which typically falls in October, SAC Chair and College junior Kanisha Parthasarathy said. Under this proposed plan, outlined in a Daily Pennsylvanian guest column by the student government branch, the moratorium will be lifted for all non-performing arts groups if the general body votes in favor of the decision.
Under the moratorium, which has been in place since the fall of 2012, SAC does not recognize new student groups, although it has continued to support about 150 already recognized organizations. In recognizing student groups, SAC facilitates group benefits including access to spaces and venues across campus and event funding. SAC is a branch of Penn’s student government and its annual budget is allocated each year by the Undergraduate Assembly.
There are no concrete plans to lift the moratorium for performing arts groups because of the nature of the Performing Arts Council’s budgetary process, Parthasarathy said. PAC allocates the limited performance venues to performing arts groups for their shows. Individual groups have no control over which spaces they are assigned. Because venues vary in cost, SAC pays for PAC’s facilities retroactively at the end of the year. For this reason, it is not possible to determine exactly how much funding each individual group should receive when SAC allocates budgets for other groups.
“It seems unfair to give a group a budget when they don’t choose how much money they spend on their venue,” Parthasarathy said.
The two groups will brainstorm effective methods of funding performing arts groups in the future before lifting the moratorium on recognizing new PAC groups can be considered, Parthasarathy said.
Student group debt accrues as a combined result of increasing facilities costs and excess group spending. Parathasarathy said that after assessing the financial state with the Office of Student Affairs, SAC determined that actual costs have been rising by about 10 percent, not the originally reported 15.
Last year under Jen Chaquette, the previous chair, SAC instated debt-resolution plans for groups in the red. “We feel that it’s more important to make individual groups responsible for the debt they accrue,” Parthasarathy said.
SAC’s budget rose for the 2014-2015 school year to about $1.15 million, an approximately 7% increase. “This is the reason that we’ve pushed for increases in our budget — to cover debt and build some room,” Parthasarathy said. “Not only do we feel like our finances are stable right now, but we feel that we have enough room to offer new groups money.”
“If we continue to be fiscally responsible, it won’t be a problem,” she added.
A previous moratorium was enacted in January 2011 in response to accumulating debt among student groups. When it was lifted in September 2011, SAC relieved all of its recognized student groups of their debt.
In contrast, Parthasarathy said, such a resolution was not a favored during the tenure of her predecessor, Chaquette. “There are more sustainable ways of solving debt problems,” she said.
If SAC remains in the black in June, it will mark two years of financial growth and present the plausibility for new groups to gain SAC recognition for the first time in two years.
“I know that there are a lot of really amazing new student groups that have been forming and deserve recognition and funding for the work that they do, and I hope that we will be able to support that aspect of student life,” Parthasarathy said.