After looking through the SSA budgets, it’s hard to know what to make of how SSA was spent last year overall. These funds were spent in a variety of ways. From events, to food, to printing, office supplies, postage and other items, student fees paid for it.
Overall, one thing becomes clear: SSA needs more accountability measures. That’s not because the funds were used improperly but because the opportunity for that to happen exists.
Sure, there’s a committee that reviews expenditures, but that’s passive. They review how money was spent after it has been already spent. Really, it may be a fiscal year later by the time that the actual review happens, thus reducing the effectiveness of accountability because the consequences could come almost an entire year later.
As difficult as it might be to do, SSA should come with stipulations. There should be a list of things that student money can’t be used to pay for or at least some simple restrictions on how much of something SSA will cover. When students apply for funding from SGA or the university, they are often met with hard limits on what the available funds will cover and how much. It’s not unreasonable for SSA funds to have a similar component. Want to host an event, for example? That’s fine, but you can only spend so much on marketing.
Even if the SSA committee is uncomfortable or incapable of determining a list of what student money can and cannot be spent on, it should actively seek to find out how these departments are going to spend money before the fact. SSA should ask for proposals on how these departments plan on spending at least some of these student fees before the start of the next fiscal year. This would allow the SSA committee to provide at least some input on that expenditure before they happen.
If anything else, these features will help provide direction for these funds. SSA is, at the end of the day, student money. Students should have some say in how this money gets spent and putting some detail of what students want or don’t want in there isn’t unreasonable.
Will these features prevent new and outside-the-box-ideas from being funded by departments? Probably not. But will it help rein in some spending measures and help cut down on some costs by departments? Probably.
We’re not saying that SSA was spent unwisely last year or with some sort of reckless abandonment since it was student funds. But what we are saying is that with so much money being dealt out to several departments, it is hard to track what happens to it without more oversight.
Just as importantly, the SSA Committee and SGA should actively try to inform students on what student fees are being used on. Because it is a student fee imposed by students. SGA, the voice of the students on this campus, should make it clear what student money can and cannot be spent on in the future. Publically discussing how departments spent student money would be a good thing as well.
Ultimately, SSA funding is locked down until 2019. There is still time to figure out how to improve SSA for the next round of redistributions. The time to start that discussion, however, is now.