Editorial: Rethinking the Budgetary Committee

The Editorial Board hopes that responsibility for funding campus activities can be distributed more evenly between the Budgetary Committee and the administration, and supports efforts towards financial equity within RSOs.

Since the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) first announced a budget deficit in the fall of 2022, funding policies have been repeatedly altered in attempts to fund as many activities as possible despite significant financial constraints. Recently, a $100,000 shortfall in the spring semester club budget has led to uncertainty for larger club sports, with both the crew team and ski and snowboard club not receiving full budget approval from the AAS.

The ongoing deficit raises larger questions regarding the role of the Budgetary Committee (BC) as one of the largest funding providers on campus. BC members are expected to take on the majority of the responsibility of funding Registered Student Organizations (RSOs), despite not receiving the support or training in financial management that members of the Amherst administration would be expected to have in such a role.

On Feb. 2, the AAS announced a change to its budgetary bylaws. Upon BC’s request, RSOs that receive funding from the AAS would be allowed to ask members about their financial status and require that club members who can afford to fund their own participation in an activity do so. This change in the club discrimination policy could potentially relieve some of the strain on the AAS’ discretionary budget.

However, the request of the Budgetary Committee (BC) in its email announcing the bylaw amendments that “[discretionary] funds be used to cover the costs of FLI students/students on financial aid” is not necessarily a move towards equity: As student petitions against the amendment pointed out, requiring that low-income students disclose their financial status to fellow students in order to participate in club activities is a privacy risk that not all students will be comfortable taking. Although the AAS later clarified in an email that the FLI allocation policy would apply only at BC’s request, no clear criteria besides “clubs engaged in costly activities” for when that discretion would be applied was specified.

This semester’s projected operating budget is $570,000 and covers everything from resource center subsidies to PVTA dues. With the AAS now being more closely linked to the administration after its upcoming recent integration into the Amherst College Corporation, the Amherst administration faces a renewed obligation to shift some of the burden of allocating funds across campus from BC to the administrative offices meant to support these programs, including the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI) and the President’s Office. This shift would bring Amherst policies in line with peer schools such as Williams College, where allocations from the Student Activities Fund are managed by student facilitators and divided among different sectors of RSOs or All-Campus Entertainment. The Williams website also clearly lists administrative sources for supplemental funding for different types of student events across campus, while the Amherst website recommends that students look to AAS for funding first for almost all events.

Ultimately, the Editorial Board hopes that a clearer division of financial responsibilities among college departments will improve relations between the student body and AAS. All students should be able to participate in RSOs, including those as expensive as club sports, and while facilitating that may necessitate introducing a financial aid process, it should also include recognizing that efforts towards financial equity must be supported by the Amherst administration in all their manifestations.

Unsigned editorials represent the views of the majority of the Editorial Board — (assenting: 15; dissenting: 0; abstaining: 0).