A gavel pounds and the room quiets. After a two-minute presentation, the Student Congress Finance Committee begins to ask questions. Do all your members have to go on the trip? Could you raise dues by $5 per student? What effect will you have on campus?
Methodically, each funding category — travel, lodging, publicity, office supplies — comes under scrutiny. Fifty dollars is cut here, $200 there. Some are left untouched — each a win for the applicant. The committee agrees on an amount, and the applicant sits down. The whole process takes about ten minutes.
But the effects of the decision can last all semester, especially when a club treasurer walks away with nothing, like sophomore Grant King, treasurer for the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, did in January.
“There are people relying on you, and they’re going to have to make some serious sacrifices,” King said.
In spring 2014, Student Congress considered requests from 70 student groups, awarding a total of $151,640, according to its online database. More than $217,000 was requested.
Twenty-two groups received all their requested money, while 15 got less than half. Small groups were hit especially hard, with applications for groups of 25 or fewer students receiving only 58 percent of their requested money.
Senior Kamaira Philips has gone through the process three times on behalf of Mind, Body, Spirit Connection, a group that teaches students meditation and other methods of stress relief, but she had a much harder time this year than previously.
Philips was awarded more than $4,400 in January to publicize her organization, hire speakers and bring members to a meditation retreat in Mebane. Her club wasn’t able to make the trip, and she planned to use the money to go to the retreat this fall. When she learned the funds wouldn’t roll over to the fall, she asked for about the same amount in August, but encountered a very different atmosphere.