An open letter from the Director of Finance:
Let’s clear the air. There have been numerous false accounts and harsh assertions surrounding the funding process recently. Nearly all of this negative backlash is based on an incomplete set of facts. If I were a student with no affiliation to GSBA or Women’s Lacrosse, these rumors would seem to paint the picture of an uncooperative student body association whose only objective is to hoard money and ignore students. As exciting as that idea may be, I am more interested in conveying the facts which is what I hope to do in this letter.
First, you should understand my role as Director of Finance. When clubs need money to put on events, attend conferences, or travel to nationals they come see me. I serve as a liaison between clubs seeking funds and the Senate. I also act as the controller of the GSBA Clubs Fund account which totals $70,000 per year. Every funding period I collect all of the funding requests I have received and present them to the Senate Finance Committee, which is made up of your senators. The committee then reviews the requests and votes to recommend the requests they feel should receive funding. These recommendations are passed to the full Senate in the form of a bill. The Senate reviews the recommendations, makes any changes they see as fit, and then votes to pass the bill thus allocating funds.
This is the first major misunderstanding I have been hearing. Many clubs believe that I decide which clubs receive funding and which do not. Think about if this were the case for a second; As the Director of Finance I would now not only have access to an account of $70,000 but I would have the ability to give that money to whomever I see fit. That seems like a fairly obvious conflict of interest, which is why the Senate, the people you elected to represent you, make the ultimate decision of who receives funding.
Even though Senate has the power to allocate funds, that power is not unlimited. The Senate is constrained in the types of requests it can fund by the GSBA Club Funding Guidelines. These guidelines are directed by GSBA’s Funding Mission Statement which reads “To assist clubs in their development by providing funds that help its members better their Gonzaga experience, and meet the goals and objectives of the club’s mission statement”. The guidelines are fairly straight forward and give the clubs an idea of what can and cannot be funded.
Despite consistent guidelines from year to year, the Senate’s overall funding philosophy might change with each new group of students. Think of them as our Supreme Court justices interpreting the Constitution, only their governing document is the Club Funding Guidelines. A new group of Senators means new interpretations which can lead to differing funding philosophies.
What I’m getting at is that there are several areas of inconsistency between this year’s funding philosophy and previous years, specifically in relation to guideline twelve. Guideline twelve states that “GSBA will only fund travel requests that provide a unique opportunity for the club”. The key phrase is ‘unique opportunity’. This extremely ambiguous wording allows the Senate to define for themselves what constitutes a unique opportunity.
Earlier in the semester the Senate voted to approve funding requests to send both Men’s and Women’s club basketball teams to nationals (around $7500 for Men’s and $5500 for Women’s). Several factors went into these decisions: 1. The Senate defined nationals as a ‘unique opportunity’. 2. Both teams had to agree to share the burden of these expenses. This meant that GSBA did not fully fund every aspect of their trip. Each of the teams contributed to the overall cost. 3. At that time of the year the Senate had not funded as much as they had hoped and thus there were excess funds to spend.
Every year the Senate attempts to spend the entire $70,000 of GSBA’s Club Budget because any remaining amount at the end of the year is not available for GSBA in the following year. To put it in practical terms, if the Senate only spends $60,000, leaving a remaining balance of $10,000 at the end of the year , when GSBA receives their funds for the following year Student Development will only deposit enough money to bring the club account back up to $70,000. In the case of my example, $60,000. GSBA has no incentive to hoard funds but we are limited to only funding requests which meet the funding guidelines. At the time the nationals requests for the club basketball teams rolled in, Senate was behind in their spending goal and this was an opportunity for them to get back on track so they took it. I’d say that’s as far from favoritism as you can get.
As for why Women’s Lacrosse received funding of $1300 for nationals and not the full $12,000 ($12,000 represents 17% of our total Club Fund account) they requested let’s look at the same factors I listed above. 1. Senate had already determined that a nationals tournament fell within the definition of a ‘unique opportunity’ so Women’s Lacrosse met this condition. 2. I had no information on how much Women’s Lacrosse was planning on contributing for their own travel but I had been in communication with several of their executives about the tournament and they asserted they would take responsibility for a portion of the expenses. 3. Unfortunately the only thing preventing Women’s Lacrosse from receiving more funds was a lack of funds. At this point in the year the Club Fund account is extremely low. As I explained above that account needs to be as close to zero as possible, otherwise your student dollars don’t get spent on events for you.
It really is unfortunate that this situation was created due to financial limitations, but money, or the lack of, is a factor in every aspect of life. Our University is not a bubble from the real world where money spontaneously appears. GSBA, like every organization, must spend wisely and budget itself appropriately in order to survive.
All of that being said, I am working to address this issue for future years by creating a nationals funding request. This request type will cater to clubs sports teams on campus and help to better communicate the need for nationals funding to Senate. In addition, Senate passed resolution to propose an additional $20,000 for the Club Funding account earmarked specifically for club sports. Such a large increase to the budget overall will surely help teams compete at a national level in years to come. There was also the creation of the Club Sports Council a few weeks ago which will give club sports a greater voice within GSBA.
It’s upsetting to me that this situation was discussed in such a public manner with seemingly zero concern for fact. I would hope that in the future those closest to the process (i.e. Director of Finance, Senate) would have been contacted for clarification prior to a public call to action.
Having said that, you are more than welcome to come by during my office hour or contact me through email. My contact info is below. I hope that this letter clears up the confusion surrounding the funding process and this situation specifically. GSBA is committed to serving the students and clubs at our university and we have followed the processes put in place to accomplish this feat. I wish the Women’s Lacrosse team luck in their nationals tournament and we’re glad we could support them with what little funds we had on hand.
Director of Finance
Gonzaga Student Body Association
502 E Boone Ave MSC2480
Spokane, WA 99258
Our full funding guidelines can be reviewed here.