The compiled notes of multiple members of the Student Association Financial Council (FinCo) from their meetings with student groups, mistakenly e-mailed to the entire SA Assembly, gave some indication of how FinCo works and the factors that play into its decisions.
FinCo’s meetings are open to the public, but groups are usually asked to leave before the Council deliberates or votes on them.
Debate in FinCo meetings does not proceed according to formal rules of legislative procedure, as it does in SA Assembly meetings. With 11 members and its meetings in a small conference room, FinCo deliberates in an informal fashion. The deliberations also can be tumultuous, with members sometimes arguing loudly with one another, ignoring each other, cracking jokes, raising non-germane topics and accusing one another of inconsistency or hypocrisy.
FinCo members’ fiscal and institutional philosophies also influence how money gets distributed to groups. Some endorse using available funding to support deserving student groups, while others urge fiscal restraint.
At a FinCo meeting on Wednesday, April 6, Aaron Ricks and Madeline Stolow supported honoring a $3,000 funding request from Rainbow Pride Union.
“They’ve been honest with us in the past, done a lot of fundraising and accomplished a lot this semester, so they probably don’t need all $3,000, but I wouldn’t mind helping them out a little bit,” Ricks said.
Others, however, disagreed.
“Saying ‘just because we have money, let’s give it out’ is never right,” said Justin Utegg, SA treasurer and FinCo chair.
Eric Larson also protested the expenditure.
“If we wanted to show them support just out of a nice gesture, let’s give them $1,000. They don’t need $3,000 … we have to consider how much utility we get out of the money we spend,” he said.
Some FinCo members offer opinions and debate frequently, while others rarely speak other than to second a motion for a vote.
Decisions can hinge on a single point highlighted by a FinCo member, and they are also often based on limited information — that which is volunteered by the groups themselves during presentations that are five to 10 minutes long. Questions that groups are unable to answer during the meeting are seldom investigated further later on.
Multiple times in the leaked notes, decisions are said to be based on the extent to which groups asking for funding have first conducted fundraising themselves. Other things FinCo considers as favoring awarding a group more money are membership expansion, working knowledge about the group’s finances and stability in year-to-year activities, campus presence and leadership turnover.
FinCo does not allocate extra money for groups to sell CDs or to cover travel expenses.
In a telling example, the notes’ section on the Treblemakers, a campus a cappella group, reads “not enough fundraiser, mentioned a CD. What is our golden rule? No CD’s! [sic].”
During the April 6 FinCo meeting, Frank Rosenfield argued against giving Binghamton Speech and Debate money to cover traveling to tournaments.
“We’ve never reimbursed groups for traveling. We don’t have enough money as an SA to do that for them, because then we’d have to do it for every other group,” he said.
When a vote for a requested funding amount fails, FinCo’s chair asks his colleagues to suggest three smaller sums to vote on. The numbers picked tend to be more an arbitrary selection than they have to do with a group’s finances or expenses.
After Utegg polled the room for three possible figures to give to Speech and Debate and only obtained two answers — $3,000 and $2,000 — he offered the third.
“$3,000, $2,000 — and $1,000, for shits and giggles,” he said.