LSA junior Amy Keller, president of the Residence Halls Association said that the Michigan Student Assembly fails to adequately fund student organizations because of their misplaced priorities.
“Every student at this University pays fees to support MSA. They have plenty of money, but they don’t spend it wisely,” she said.
Longtime MSA staff member Bisera Vlahovijak said she wasn’t surprised by student complaints. “Student organizations tend to be satisfied with fund allocations, but there will always be those that complain,” she said.
Vlahovijak said that while MSA awards might seem small at first glance, many smaller organizations often request comparatively small amounts of funding to begin with. She said this is particularly true during the spring and summer terms, when most organizations are less active and therefore require less funding.
“Student organizations cannot use MSA funding to buy capital goods, food and beverages or to pay for student lodging and travel,” she said.
While she declined to divulge the names of specific student groups, Vlahovijak said very few applications are denied outright.
“Even when student groups applications are not completed properly, those organizations are given an opportunity to correct them and then have them reconsidered by the board,” she said.
“And each organization is entitled to have its application read twice and to appear before the deciding committee in person when their initial application is denied.”
Vlahovijak said two committees, budget priorities and community service, determine MSA funding decisions. Each is comprised of elected MSA representatives and students-at-large.
The funding criteria considered by both committees include the organizations’ financial need, their ability to access alternative sources of financial assistance, and the potential impact that organization activities will have on campus life.
While she acknowledged that determining impact on campus life could be highly subjective, Vlahovijak said the committees try to be as neutral as possible in their deliberations and actively seek to fund organizations representing diverse viewpoints wherever possible.
LSA sophomore Sandra Baek, president of the Adventist Students said she was satisfied with the way MSA allocated funds to her student group.”I think that we were treated fairly. The application process was pretty simple. The forms are easy to fill out,” she said.
Baeck said she was very pleased with changes made in the application process.
“Before, when organizations were asked to forecast funding needs for an entire semester, it was difficult to make the requests specific enough because we couldn’t project our activities or needs through the entire semester,” she said. “Now that the process is broken down into three cycles, we can be more accurate in our requests, and MSA is less likely to raise questions about our applications.”
She added that she felt MSA had not discriminated against her organization because of its religious orientation.
“As long as we don’t exclude students who don’t share our views, they are okay,” she said. “This is fine with us because we can do community service events such as promoting vegetarian diets that can benefit everybody while we adhere to our faith.”