In an effort to improve transparency, the Undergraduate Student Government is using their website to post a six-part blog series explaining the different functions of the governing body’s budget.
The series will feature a new post every Thursday evening authored by Annie Sourbis, USG president. The posts serve to clear up common misconceptions about how USG spends the Student Activity Fee.
he introductory post of the series, titled “The Budgets are Coming!” details how the budget will be broken down in future posts, justifying why commentary for all postings is necessary.
Following this was a second post, “The Myths, the Legends…mostly the myths,” posted on March 3. A pie chart displayed a breakdown of what channels the $125 activity fee of full-time students goes toward. The athletics department, student center and student building fund are listed as top beneficiaries. To date, this second post is the lengthiest out of the four posted so far.
It also falsified two common myths: the entire student activity fee is given to USG and that the amount of money allocated to clubs is negatively correlated to the amount of events put on by USG during the semester.
“I think people need a context of how the USG budget works before they can even criticize this USG or the next USG on if they have been using the money properly,” explained Sourbis, who noted that this was the first year of the system’s implementation.
“I’ve put up the budget of what we were allocated to use for this year but not necessarily what we spent yet. That is a really complicated thing, to find out those numbers exactly.”
Sourbis has also used the blog to clarify how money is distributed. “This is more of letting me teach you about the budget first, before we go into how you think we are spending it, because there is so much more that people need to understand before they can criticize us, or anybody.”
The third installment of the series, posted on March 10, included part one of the USG operations budget, defined in the preceding post as being “what allows it [USG] to operate on a day-to-day basis.”
A hyperlinked PDF supplied a detailed explanation of several USG programs along with their respective budget lines in the form of a chart, which included lines for refreshments, equipment and contracts. Listed underneath this graphic is a breakdown of monthly stipend amounts for the 22 USG representatives who hold seats on the senate table. The Baruch College board of directors determines stipends amounts.
“I know that there was a lot of confusion when it comes to the [USG] budget as of last year, so this year we decided that not only are we going to have club budgets on the website, but also our own budget so that clubs can see how we function,” explained Agata Poniatowski, who maintains the website and serves as USG’s public relations. “It functions very differently from the club budgets themselves.”
The USG president and treasurer make $485 a month for their contributions to the executive board, making them the highest-paid representatives of the USG. Explaining the stipend, Annie tells students in the post, “As the president of USG I have taken my responsibility of signing-off on stipends very seriously. Like any other expenditure of USG, it is from the student activity fee, which is to be taken seriously and not to be spent carelessly.”
The latest and shortest post, published on March 17, revealed a second part of USG’s operations budget with an array of similarly styled explanations for each category and its sub-events, including the hiring of personnel, program, and special projects, such as Leadership Weekend, USG Retreat and sustainability improvements (improvements around Baruch’s campus).
A fifth post, elaborating on the third and final section of USG’s operations budget—as well as a sixth and final post on USG’s programming budget—are scheduled to be released in the coming weeks.
“Ever since I was in USG, people have been asking to see the budget,” said Sourbis, who held off on posting the budget initially. “It was not because I didn’t want to show the budget, we are just trying avoid rumors and assumptions from people who didn’t understand it.”
She added, “I also accomplished not just putting it out there, but also giving people the information that they deserve to know. I don’t think the students deserve to see just an Excel sheet with no explanation, they pay this activity fee and they pay to give USG a budget, and I think they should have the context … they should know how exactly their tuition is spent at the college and at CUNY.”
In her closing months as USG president, Sourbis aims to draw more students to the website to read about the budgets. “People have been asking for this, is it that they don’t really care and they didn’t really want to know it [the budget], or is it that they do care and they don’t know it’s out there right now? Because they need to know.”
As of the afternoon of March 17, “The Budgets are Coming!” had registered 24 total page views for the month. “The Myths, the Legends … mostly the myths” registered 75 page views for the month and the third post received 10 page views. The site as a whole has received 974 total monthly visits.