The Undergraduate Assembly voted on Sunday to preside over a reserve fund that will act as a new funding source for high-impact student projects across the University.
The new amendment to the UA Bylaws formally establishes a process for the UA, UA Steering, or groups directly funded by the UA to submit reserve requests for leftover funds generated by the different branches of Penn Student Government. The fund, which passed by an overwhelming majority, will assist in allocating $1.3 million back to student groups across campus.
According to the initial proposal, streamlining the fund originated prior to the COVID-19 pandemic as “money in the reserve fund was not very accessible and there was no clear process for utilizing the funds.” The onset of the pandemic created a drastic increase in leftover funds as student groups, most notably those under the Social Planning and Events Committee and the Student Activities Council, were not utilizing their full budgets while COVID-19 restrictions were in place.
At the end of the 2022 fiscal year in June, the reserve fund contained over $1.3 million — a 542% increase from four years ago, when the fund contained just $208,537 at the end of the 2018 fiscal year.
Previously, reserve requests were overseen by PSG Steering, a committee consisting of the leaders of the six student government branches. However, problems arose with how to equitably distribute funds to student groups as PSG Steering’s main purpose is to promote PSG collaboration and not to serve as a funding board.
College junior Alex Eapen, UA vice president and a columnist for The Daily Pennsylvanian, said that the new process of the UA introducing reserve fund proposals — particularly through UA Steering, a group consisting of representatives from 41 undergraduate organizations — will promote a greater representation of students when reviewing requests for reserve funding.
“[UA] Steering is a great place for a large sum of money that's coming from student activities to go back to the student population,” Eapen said. “The idea is we have this large think tank, so to speak, that’s representative of the student body, and that they’re creating proposals together to find out how this money can go back to students.”
The goal of this formalized reserve fund is to create a collaborative space where student groups can work together on projects that have a wide influence on students across the University. This fund is specifically designed for projects that need a significant amount of funding, which can be difficult to obtain from other student funding sources, Eapen said.
“What we're looking for is large sums of money to be taken out, like $100,000, $50,000,” Eapen said. “We want to make sure that people are using large sums of money and then they're working with other students to make sure that their projects [have a] high impact on the student body.”
As part of the amendment, PSG Steering will also receive a maximum of 10% of the reserve fund “to be spent how PSG Steering deems fit.” Eapen hopes that the establishment of this fund and its mission of serving the student population will help students engage with PSG more closely and make their voices heard across campus.
“We really want students to know that elected officials are elected students,” Eapen emphasized. “We are definitely working for you. And we would also love for the student body to feel as though they have a say.”