The Budgetary Committee (BC) of the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) announced a set of stricter funding policies in an email last Sunday, Oct. 23: Food and travel will no longer be funded unless they are “integral” to a particular event or to the club’s general operations, respectively, and emergency funding will no longer be provided to those who are simply unable to attend the weekly BC meeting.
The changes, which were discussed in a meeting of the BC on Oct. 17, come as a response to the AAS’ ongoing budget crisis. Already, the AAS has exceeded its allotted discretionary fund for the semester — the money set aside for clubs to request on a weekly basis — and continues to deplete the money accrued from past surpluses, the Rainy Day Fund.
The budget deficit problem is the result of past AAS overspending coupled with the reduced student activities fee, which was entirely eliminated during the off-campus Covid period, and now stands at $300, $65 less than its pre-Covid figure, AAS Treasurer Dania Hallak ’24 said at the Oct. 17 meeting, according to the meeting’s minutes.
For many clubs, the BC’s more restrictive food policy will have the most immediate effect. It reduces the cap on funding from $10 per student attending an event to $8, and reduces the absolute cap on funding for food from $500 to $300, in addition to limiting food to events where it is “integral.”
“BC defines integral to mean that the event would be impossible to exist without food,” the Oct. 23 email read. The BC reserves the right to determine whether food is essential for any proposed events.
Hallak provided several examples of the new food funding guidelines. “[If] you’re getting food for your speaker event, that’s not integral because you can still hold a speaker event [without food],” she said. “For [events like] the Freshmen Barbecue where they would buy groceries and cook them, [requesting funding for food still] makes sense.”
Hallak expressed some disappointment at the need for these changes, stating that she thought it was useful for clubs to be able to incentivize event attendance with food, but that “unfortunately, the BC can’t continue to afford that trend.”
Under the new, more restrictive travel policy, many club trips that would have received funding in past years will now be in jeopardy. Yet, travel that is central to the missions of certain clubs, such as competitions for Model United Nations, Ultimate Frisbee, and Debate Club, will continue to be funded after careful review and consideration.
These clubs’ trips to tournaments are essential for student members to use the specific skills they have trained. “I mean, you can’t practice debating until you have an event,” said Hallak. “For frisbee, I’ll just be playing frisbee but like, it doesn’t really make any sense without a tournament [either].”
This policy change has resulted in the cancellation of at least one planned club trip. In its Oct. 23 newsletter, the Anime Club e-board announced to its members that the club would not be traveling to New York City for a November anime convention due to “concerns regarding funding.”
Under the new guidelines, emergency funding will no longer be provided to clubs whose members fail to attend BC meetings. “In previous months, people would forget to show up at the BC [meeting, saying something like,] ‘I just forgot to show up because of an exam and I needed this much money,’” Hallak said.
But now emergency funding will be reserved for instances that the BC deems actual emergencies. The new policies define these as “changes in circumstances, such as [your] driver dropping out or having to pay a fee that if not paid would not allow a sports club to play for the remainder of the semester.”
The BC has approached the administration about increasing the student activities fee to relieve the strain of the budget crisis, but received “pushback,” Hallak said.
For now, the new policies are the main weapon in the fight to keep AAS financially afloat.