A.S. Finance Committee Working on Plans to Revise Fiscal Policy

The Active Minds Club request a budget at the Associated Students (A.S.) Board meeting on February 25, at the Santa Monica College (SMC) Cayton Center. This is the latest event confirming the need for an A.S. Finance Committee’s initiative to revise fiscal policy. The organization’s SMC chapter had requested $4655.25 for an upcoming national conference between March 22 and 23rd in Washington, D.C., that aims to enhance the group’s practices in raising mental health awareness.

While the request passed unanimously, a clause on the fiscal policy dictating that overnight trips outside the states of California, Arizona, and Nevada would be limited to 25% funding meant the club knew they would be unable to request the full amount they needed. Considering the importance of mental health to a majority of students at SMC, it was evident the board of directors kept this fact in mind, as Director of Sustainability Brooke Harrington followed up on whether the club would be able to meet their budget requirement. The question sparked a dialogue among the board on potential suggestions to help with the club’s predicament.

“I didn’t even bring up the conversation about more funds,” said John James, Vice President of Active Minds SMC, who was prepared to find other sources of funding because of the policy’s provisions. “That was brought up by the A.S. board members,” he continued.

Student Trustee Charlene “Alex” Boyd felt the need to urge the board to consider making an exception to fiscal policy for the club’s conference. Interestingly, the idea prompted a broader discussion on fiscal policy revision.

“Almost every board member . . . mentioned an interest in revising the fiscal policy,” James observed. As the discussion continued, the fiscal policy’s role in impeding the board’s efforts to help the club became clear to some in attendance.

“What we’re doing is important. The A.S. Board gets that. We’re sure the financial committee understands that as well. They just have to get over the legal hurdles that they’re faced with,” said David Atash, the Inter-Club Council (I.C.C.) delegate for Active Minds SMC.

Atash’s realization was accurate. The A.S. Board was fully aware of the club’s contributions in destigmatizing mental health issues on campus, but the fiscal policy did not make it easy for them to aid the club in an ideal fashion.

“My problem is I know that they’re active . . . and I know I can only approve this much,” said I.C.C. Vice-Chair Paniz Karimpour, a member of the A.S. Finance Committee. The issues with the fiscal policy did not hinder Karimpour from attempting to further aid the club by researching various on-campus departments who may be able to aid with funding the Active Minds trip.

Unfortunately, the A.S. Board may have to bear with these issues for the remainder of their terms, because fiscal policy states that any revisions will only take into effect a year after their approval.

Despite this, the finance committee is determined to work on drafting revisions.

“We’re trying to change it, because I believe that if we don’t change it and it goes on, it’s going to affect more clubs. The way it’s structured, it’s not student supportive,” continued Karimpour. The Vice-Chair was not the only committee member to express concern on the fiscal policy.

“We’re here for the students, we’re here to fund what they wanna do. Being so restrictive, it doesn’t really make sense,” said A.S. President Isabel Rodriguez, noting that the fiscal policy was also an issue back in November 2018 when the Student Veterans’ Association requested funding for Natcon 2019, another mental health conference.

The common issues with funding conferences were particularly troubling to the Director of Student Advocacy, Alexa Benevente because her experiences with conferences made her more aware of how crucial full funding is for students going on these trips.

While Active Minds is fortunate enough to be a well-connected club able to get funding from a multitude of sources, Benevente noted that not all students managing the many clubs on campus have the same opportunities.

“Sometimes we’re gonna have students who are wealthy enough to fly themselves to the conferences, sometimes we’re gonna have students who are unable to pay for their fees,” she continued. Benevente also brought up the rising costs of necessities in this economy further hurting the opportunities of the less fortunate students.

“I’ve personally been in conferences for A.S. and have had to pay for my own things. I know how hard it is to have those $25 for one meal when you’re going on a two to three day trip,” she explained. These factors have lead Benevente to support the finance committee’s plans to revise the fiscal policy.

While these issues were clearly important, Director of Budget Management and Finance Committee Chair Maria Damian was quick to note that caution must be exercised in the revision process.

“We will look into how much we really should fund our trips, but again I completely understand why right now we only have 25%,” Damian clarified, talking of the funding limitations put in place because of how expensive these trips can get.

Damian also expressed that the board should consider whether resources lost from an expensive proposal would be worth it, before ensuring clubs that “there are ways that [clubs] can benefit the student body and student population more than those conferences” in the event of revisions falling through.

Fiscal policy revisions are still undergoing deliberations under the A.S. Finance Committee, but their gratitude for consistent club activity on campus is certain. Rodriguez explained that if it weren’t for a club activity, they never would have noticed that the fiscal policy would need amendments.

“We’re grateful for all they do, for coming in and letting us know how they think because that’s how things change over time,” said Rodriguez.