Mixed in with every student’s list of fees and tuition that get paid with mild griping is “Flat Fee A&S Tampa.” The Activity and Service (A&S) fee – which equates to more than $17.8 million this year — falls under Student Government’s jurisdiction. The funs are allocated to student organizations and offices on campus.
The A&S fee is paid by students each semester. The fee includes a flat fee of $7 per semester and $12.08 per credit hour each semester. If a student takes 15 credit hours in a semester, they pay $188.20 in A&S fees.
The A&S Recommendation Committee (ASRC) is fully equipped with 12 voting members. This includes six voting senators and two alternate members if one of the six isn’t able to attend a meeting.
Collectively, this committee goes over budget requests to fund parts of campus such as new equipment for Campus Recreation, furniture in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) and events for student organizations.
“The goal of ASRC would be to receive budget requests from things that are asking for A&S funding, to determine how they provide activities and services to students and to fund them for those activities and services,” Sen. Aladdin Hiba, who is starting his fourth term on the committee, said. “With the overall goal of making things better for our USF students, adding activities, adding services.”
The ASRC committee met Friday to vote on a chair – who is responsible for calling all further meetings – and a vice chair.
During the remainder of the fall semester, committee members go over practice budget requests in order to learn the rules and the process. Additionally, members are assigned to different departments and student organizations on campus that request funding to serve as a liaison between that group and the committee.
The larger budget requests, such as the MSC and Campus Recreation, are due in December for the committee to start reviewing when winter break ends.
“We want them to have them to us early on, at least relatively,” Hiba said. “Well before this deadline happens, we’ll be meeting with the departments. We’ll have people communicating with the departments to see ‘this is what the department wants,’ ‘these are things the department thinks maybe could be cut,’ ‘these are the directions the department wants to go in.’ We get a gist of that.”
The 2017-18 budget allocated $11.9 million toward these larger departments for activities and renovations that the committee felt would be beneficial to the student body. This is compared to the $10.8 million that went toward these departments in last year’s budget.
According to Sen. Saeed Sinan, who is also starting his fourth term on the ASRC committee, departments are coming up with more new initiatives to request funding for and it’s part of the committee’s job to determine which of those are worth funding.
“We don’t want to overspend and overallocate things,” he said. “Basically, we look to see if the impact was the best for the student body. Should we decrease that? Should we reallocate funds to a different entity or a different program within the department?”
Hiba said one of the hardest parts of dealing with the budgets is having the conversations about what areas or programs need to be cut.
“If we’re spending say $50,000 on something that 200 people go to,” he said. “Well, $50,000 is enough to fund 50 student organizations for a year. We have to make these judgments, these decisions. This is too expensive, it’s not impacting enough people.”
In comparison to the deadline for departments, student organizations have to submit budget requests by Jan. 26 for consideration by the committee. In last year’s budget, student organizations as a whole received $1.1 million compared to $1 million the year prior.
“There’s around 300 to 400 to 500 student orgs that submit budget requests, and then the chair assigns a set amount of orgs per ASRC member,” Sinan said. “Then we meet with them based on the standards we decide in the fall semester. Then we go on to review each budget request separately.”
The committee allows student organizations to request funding for up to eight events per year and allocate $4 a head for food and event-related material such as tablecloths and decorations. This process was developed this past year. Prior organizations could get funded $2 a head per event and would have to request additional funding for other materials.
In an attempt to make the per-head funding system more accurate, SG purchased a card swipe system that can be rented out to student organizations. This allows for those in attendance to swipe their student ID to mark attendance and gives the organization as well as ASRC a better idea of how many students are attending events.
While most student organizations submit requests on their own, the ASRC committee has created counsels that group similar organizations – that each have a representative on the counsel – together to allow for better funding. Rather than funding each individual organization requesting money from ASRC, those that would fall into a counsel would request money from the counsel – that requested money from ASRC.
“We have a few dozen who use money completely differently from the way most organizations use it,” Hiba said. “Sports clubs are an excellent example because they don’t have events, they don’t need food, they don’t need money for the types of things we usually spend on organizations.
“What we’ve done is we’ve established the Sports Club Counsel whose entire funding paradigm is geared toward sports clubs. So, they can’t fund food and they can’t fund events in the standard sense. Instead what they fund for is primarily for team equipment that would belong to the team and for travel.”
According to Sinan, if a counsel does fund something that the ASRC committee normally would fund – such as an event – it can’t be funded differently than ASRC would. If the Engineering Counsel were to fund an event, it would still be required to fund $4 per head the way ASRC would.
A member of the committee is assigned to each organization to help work as a liaison between the organization and ASRC. What member of the committee represents what student organization is as random as it can be. Along with that right, ASRC provides a number of other rights to organizations.
“We give student organizations certain rights throughout the process,” Hiba said. “We give them the right to meet with an ASRC member, we give them the right to have their budget heard if they submit it on time, and we give them the right to appeal it to a different person if the person they met with the first time didn’t do a good job of representing them to ASRC.”
Committee members are expected to disclose any organizations they may have a bias toward or against to promote fairness. According to Sinan, all student organizations are viewed the same and go through the same process to help ensure fairness when allocating funds.
“The philosophy of ASRC is basically ‘We do not fund to better the organization or department’ because we are the custodians of the A&S fee,” Sinan said. “So, we are here to serve the students and better their experience here at USF because they paid it so we are trying to empower them.”