Each year, clubs across Penn scramble to secure as much Student Activities Council funding as possible.
SAC is the branch of the Undergraduate Assembly responsible for overseeing and allocating money for student clubs. This academic year, SAC received a record $1,222,043 in funding from the UA and accepted 20-25 new clubs onto its funding roster in the fall.
SAC funding has grown 22.1 percent in the past 5 years, according to data provided by College junior and UA Treasurer Kat McKay. SAC’s budget increased from $1,001,067.64 during the 2012-13 academic year to its current amount in 2015-16.
The budget is determined each year by the UA, which is in turn determined by the University’s Board of Trustees.
“Any money which is not allocated to the other branches of student government goes to SAC,” College junior and SAC Chair Jeremy Cohen said. “Also, any difference between the UA’s projected allocation and the money they actually receive from the Trustees goes to SAC.”
Although some 200 clubs at Penn receive SAC funding, just five take up nearly 60 percent of the money. The Sports Club Council was the number one largest recipient of SAC funds in 2015-16, receiving a staggering 43 percent of the $622,546 budget. The SCC funds and administrates around 30 club sports groups at Penn, from taekwondo to equestrian horseback riding.
Performance-based clubs are also among the clubs that receive the most money from SAC. Groups like the Department of Music Performance Ensembles, Mask and Wig and Latin and Ballroom Dance are among the top five most funded clubs.
“We use [SAC money] to fund our fall and spring semester productions,” said College senior and Bloomers Comedy Co-Business Manager Emma Soren. “Production is the biggest cost, and then we also get funding for costumes [and] photocopies.”
Travel costs and competition fees take up the majority of funding for Penn Parliamentary Debate, according to Engineering freshman and Penn Parliamentary Debate Treasurer William Brown. Members of Penn Parliamentary Debate attend up to 20-25 tournaments a year, from faraway competitions at Stanford to close-by events at Princeton.
“The main thing we use our money for is for going to competitions and traveling,” Brown said. “There are both fees for getting places and also fees associated with these competitions themselves. We’ve been pretty nationally competitive this year, so just doing these things costs a lot of money.”
SAC-funded clubs must submit budgets for the next academic year during the spring of the current year. Almost all of them apply for more than they end up receiving, as a sort of rule-of-thumb.
“More often than not, groups apply for slightly more money than we end up giving them,” Cohen said. “That’s usually because of some type of uncertainty. If something is truly uncertain or we don’t feel it’s immediately relevant to the mission, we ask them to apply for it as contingency funding.”
Brown said that SAC covers Penn Parliamentary Debate’s competition entrance fees, but only part of travel costs. To cover the gap, the team hosts a debate tournament at Penn that generates revenue.
“For next year, we applied for even more money than we had asked for [before], hoping to get a fraction of that and give us more ability to compete,” Brown said. “This year the freshmen have been particularly active in competing, so we’re trying to capitalize on the success and get more money to expand the team.”
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that SAC funding increased by 22.1 percent over the last five years, not by 128 percent. It also now clarifies that Penn Parliamentary Debate has its competition entrance fees covered by SAC, but not all of its travel costs, rather than other way around. Additionally, the graphics in this article have been updated to correct a mislabeling of the legend. The DP regrets the errors.
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