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The Undergraduate Assembly meeting on Jan. 22. Credit: Alex Baxter

The Undergraduate Assembly funded 11 new programs and ended funding for 30 initiatives in its budget for the 2023-24 school year, according to an analysis by The Daily Pennsylvanian.

The DP compared the UA’s $3 million 2023-24 budget to its 2022-23 current budget and found that student government branches funded by the UA received less money than requested on a larger scale than recent years. When granting changes in the budget for each academic year, the UA accounts for metrics such as attendance of funded events and previous year's allocations, as well as keeping requested funds for each line item within an organization’s spending.

In the 2022-23 academic year, the UA and its funded groups had a total budget of just over $2.9 million. The budget has now grown to $3 million — a 3.5% increase.

Among initiatives that will see a decrease, UA will no longer provide funding to Class Board cultural events such as Penn’s Holi celebration — traditionally a collaboration with the Hindu & Jain Association — and the Social Planning and Events Committee’s Art Collective, a group that sponsored student art galleries and museum trips. These two programs were respectively allocated $6,300 and $5,600 in the previous budget.

30 programs and initiatives lose funding in the 2023-24 Undergraduate Assembly budget

11 new programs will also be funded under this new budget, including UA committee socials, which received $500, and the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education’s “Bridge to Math” program, which received $1,000. 

11 programs and initiatives are newly funded in the 2023-24 Undergraduate Assembly budget

In addition, six programs will nearly double their funding, including the Nominations & Elections Committee and UA student government election debate, PENNacle scholarship funds, and PennCORP scholarship funds. 

Six initiatives doubled their previous funding in the 2023-24 Undergraduate Assembly budget

College junior Charlie Schumer, the vice president of the Class of 2024, said that the UA has been attempting to refocus the nature of its funding, calling the new budget a "big overhaul." He said that many budget reductions were not made with the intent of eliminating certain events and initiatives, but rather a focus on streamlining and allocating money based on where it is needed. 

Schumer added that the UA stopped additional proposals to reallocate money, citing how — in order to support student programming — he stopped money from being moved away from the Student Arts Council to SPEC.

At a recent general board meeting, College junior and UA Treasurer Yash Rajani commented that the group is looking to “frame the budget to represent organizational spending rather than the value of the organization."

Because of these changes, some of Penn Student Government’s subsidiaries received less funding than the previous year. Two branches of student government received budget cuts, with SCUE’s budget cut by 20.9% and NEC facing a 1.4% fund decrease from the UA. 

Another one of the larger budget cuts includes a 35.4% reduction in funding for SPEC Fest, a fall festival sponsored by SPEC that began in 2022. 

SCUE budget cut by 20.9%, largest of student government branches

“Nobody likes having their budget cut,” College sophomore and SCUE Treasurer Euel Kebebew said when asked about SCUE's budget cuts. 

Despite the decrease, Kebebew said that the committee has a “great relationship” with the UA and views the group as supportive of SCUE’s initiatives and goals.  

One particularly large change for SCUE has been a reduction to their “collaborations budget,” which was decreased by 71% for the upcoming year. Kebebew said that these changes partially reflect the “disconnect between pre-COVID SCUE and post-COVID SCUE,” as the pandemic disrupted the organization’s goals and operations. 

In addition to pandemic disruption, College sophomore and SCUE Internal Chair Michelle Wen said there is an effort in SCUE and across the UA to “cut anything that requires printing,” such as SCUE’s long-running Roadmap to Penn and UA meeting packets, to improve sustainability.

Every group funded by the Undergraduate Assembly received less money than requested

Many new initiatives in the budget center around internal community events and focus groups, with UA and Class Board committee socials being included in the budget for the first time and the implementation of new SCUE initiatives such as peer mentoring. Schumer said that the budget’s increase in UA and Class Board socials help build “increased cohesion and greater teamwork.”