SA kicks off winter with little budget wiggle room
By Alex Belser, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, January 13, 2005
Dartmouth's student government began the new term with just under $17,000 remaining of its record $80,000 budget after the rest had already been spent or allocated for impending projects, organization figures show. Student Assembly leaders, however, insisted that their finances are solid.
The money already spent or earmarked by the Assembly includes most of the big-ticket items for the year, notably $20,000 for the student newspaper program, $12,085 for the new student-to-student freshman advising program and another $10,000 for new BlitzMail terminals.
Although they have not yet been purchased, Assembly leaders say they are close to finally securing the funds for the new terminals. They have been working on an agreement with the College to contribute to the cost of the computers.
Other expenses included more than $1,600 for a get-out-the-vote drive, nearly $1,400 for a Tubestock barbecue and $1,250 for a summer event promoting awareness of consensual sex. Assembly members have already set aside $2,000 for a "Collis Up All Night" celebration set to take place later this term.
Although a significant amount of the Assembly's funds were spent on food and social events, Student Body President Julia Hildreth '05 acknowledged the importance of bringing the campus together.
"A lot of our money it seems like is spent trying to figure out how to bring people together," Hildreth said.
Halfway through the academic year covered by the budget, Hildreth pointed out that only half of the total money has actually been spent, while other funds have only been appropriated for upcoming projects. Though the summer sees less Assembly activity and spending, she said that most of the budget is allocated in the fall, and this year's Assembly finances are right on track.
"We had very little money last spring and that wasn't a problem. Spring is more of a policy-oriented term," Hildreth said.
Although the Assembly's constitution requires the treasurer to "present complete financial reports" at their first meeting, treasurer Chris Bertrand '07 did not provide detailed numbers to The Dartmouth until Wednesday.
Still, Hildreth said this year's Assembly is more transparent than in the past.
"I've been on Assembly for four years and have never seen anything about the budget," she said.
At the term's first meeting this week, the Assembly moved ahead with a new project that does not cost any money: an online guide to off-campus housing.
The system, which would be similar to the student course review program currently available on the Assembly website, would allow students to list where in town they rent and to rate their landlords on a scale.
It is unclear whether the site will allow students to write about their renting experiences.
Student Body Vice President Todd Rabkin Golden '06 said a College lawyer advised him against allowing students to write out their thoughts for fear of a lawsuit, but after some debate at Tuesday's meeting, the approved proposal says the site "may include" student comments. Hildreth said an Assembly committee will have the final say.
Meanwhile, the online course guide received some 5,000 new entries after an e-mail push for students to evaluate their fall courses.
Other priorities include restarting the student bike program and a town hall meeting with administrators scheduled for Feb. 7. Also next month, members are planning to help the group Paleopitus in set up a forum where students could ask questions of embattled administrators such as Director of Admissions Karl Furstenberg and Athletic Director Josie Harper.
The Undergraduate Funding Council, which divides the spoils of a small tuition fee among student groups, gave the Assembly more money earlier this year to cover the costs of the newspaper program. It still receives much less than the Programming Board and the Council on Student Organizations.