The annual budget for Penn Student Government will exceed $2.5 million for the first time in Penn's history. The budget for the 2018-2019 financial year, which was determined by the Undergraduate Assembly, was recently approved.
PSG saw an overall budget increase of 3.9 percent — or an approximate $96,000 — for the next year. While this has translated to increases in budget for the Student Activities Council, the Social Planning and Events Committee, the Medical Emergency Response Team, Penn Labs, and Skimmerfest, there are several boards who have seen significant cuts to their funding.
The budgets for the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 both saw cuts, though the sophomore class was more significantly affected with a loss of nearly $3,000 in funding. The board, which requested more than $6,000 for apparel, was allotted $0 for the costs. For the past two years, however, each sophomore class has requested and received over $5,000 for apparel, and now the incoming sophomore class will not be receiving any.
Sam Shea, Wharton senior and UA treasurer, said the UA Budget Committee believed that the sophomore class was reselling the apparel for a profit, thereby breaking UA budget policy.
"There was essentially a fight and an argument on the floor of the UA when we were discussing this during the actual budgeting process," Shea said.
According to Wharton and Engineering sophomore Karim El Sewedy, president of the 2020 Class Board who was just re-elected to serve another term, the money was used to buy class apparel which would be resold to fundraise for future events, with some of the money being used to subsidize the costs for low-income students.
According to Shea, money used to fundraise should come out of a class's event budget, rather than having its own separate item for event apparel.
As such, while the $5,100 for apparel was cut, the class was given $2,075 more than requested for their event budget to account for apparel costs.
Wharton sophomore Jack Stinger, the vice president of finances of the 2020 Class Board, did not respond to request for comment.
Other committees that saw an overall budget cut include the UA, the Nominations & Elections Committee, and the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education.
SCUE saw a dramatic cut in costs from almost $24,000 this past year to $8,130 for the coming year.
According to Shea, the committee will no longer be responsible for directly funding the school preceptorial training programs and that the $15,700 cut from SCUE's budget will be awarded to the New Student Orientation committee instead.
"In recent years, there was a preceptorial committee created and essentially SCUE was just used as the account that they would draw the money from," Shea said.
The UA, which had an operating budget of $6,085 for 2017-2018, cut its own budget to $4,850 for the 2018-2019 year. One of the largest cuts was made to the UA mentoring program which saw a decrease from $900 to $300 in funds.
One of the only committees to see a significant increase in funding was SPEC, which was allocated $1 million, marking a $70,000 increase in budget from this past year. This is the first time that the group's funding has reached seven figures.
SPEC consists of nine different branches which are responsible for organizing events throughout the academic year. These include speaker events, concerts, and the annual Spring Fling celebration.
The two SPEC branches that saw the greatest budget increases were SPEC Concerts and Spring Fling committees, both of which have been the subject of controversy this semester after implementing a series of significant changes to the annual Fling celebrations.
The new budget also reflects a drop in revenue that Spring Fling has endured over the years. In the 2014-2015 budget, SPEC Concerts was anticipated to bring in $300,000 of ticketing revenue. This year, the budget anticipated $235,000 of ticketing revenue — a $65,000 drop.
This year's Spring Fling was shortened to one day instead of two. Daytime activities were moved out from the Quadrangle for the first time, the number of student performances was cut down, and the Fling concert featured four artists instead of two. These changes were all met with mixed reviews from students and alumni.
SPEC Concerts, the division of PSG tasked with organizing the Fling concert, was given an additional $47,000 compared to this past year – a 19.14 percent change. The branch received a total of $292,500 in funding, around $50,000 less than the the group requested. Over 90 percent of its budget is designated for the group to organize the Fling concert in 2019.
SPEC Spring Fling, the group's branch presiding over carnival-style events that traditionally took place in the Quad, received a total of $203,000 for 2018-2019, marking a $14,800 increase from this past year.
For the previous two years, the cost for "Fling Proper," which include the costs for venders, marketing, security, and operations, was $191,900. This year, however, despite Fling being shortened to a single day, the infrastructure cost for the day was $202,700 mainly due to an additional $10,500 in "Facilities Fee" to move the Quad events to Penn Park. In previous years, holding events in the Quad did not incur a facilities fee.
Wharton junior and Co-chair of SPEC Concerts Elizabeth Goran said that "SPEC does not comment on individual committees'" budgets.
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