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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Digging into the pockets of MUSG

Photo by Brittany McGrail / [email protected]

Benjamin Franklin once famously said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes.

And if you have ever wondered where the Marquette Student Government gets the thousands of dollars to sponsor events with organizations or to host concerts and speakers on campus, perhaps you would not be surprised to know that it comes from a tax — so to speak — on the roughly 8,000 undergrads at the university.

This school year, students collectively provided the organization with $429,000 through the Student Activity Fee, effectively a $30 tax on each student at the beginning of each semester.

This fee is included in the bill displayed on CheckMarq when one goes to pay tuition. It may go unnoticed, however, blending in with the high cost it takes to attend college, and perhaps remains virtually invisible to most students who do not familiarize themselves with MUSG’s financial aspects.

While $60 a year from each student is a relatively immaterial fee in comparison to the upwards of $30,000 tuition bill, it provides MUSG with the assets it needs to attract high-profile speakers, such as renowned poet Nikki Giovanni earlier this month, or the upcoming Spring Concert featuring Sara Bareilles.

Without the Student Activity Fee, which accounts for roughly 80 percent of the organization’s revenue, many programs held on campus would struggle to stay afloat.

For example, the cost associated with playing a new movie at the Varsity Theatre each week during the school year totals $32,400. The films, however, are only expected to bring in around $10,000 of revenue. This means that the films lose roughly $22,400 throughout the course of the year, money made up for by the activity fee revenue.

Similarly, MUSG planned on spending $50,000 on hosting concerts on campus this year, but only expected to earn $13,000 back from money generated by the concerts.

John Dunlap, MUSG’s financial vice president and a junior in the College of Business Administration, said while MUSG is always looking to curb costs of holding concerts or movies, they are also analyzing whether the activity fee is being spent in areas that benefit the most people.

“With the films, they may be pretty costly (to MUSG),” Dunlap said. “But they are popular, fairly recent movies, for cheap ($2 for a student) and you don’t have to drive off campus to a theater.”

In total, the program board, which organizes the events that MUSG is putting on, has a budget of $297,355, with the $70,000 going toward speakers as the largest expense.

Other large expenses for MUSG include a rental fee to occupy the Alumni Memorial Union and use other affiliated venues ($7,500), and administrative expenses such as salaries and advertising costs.

Interestingly, Dunlap is the highest paid member of MUSG. He makes more than double what the president and vice president make.

Dunlap, who manages all aspects of the budget, earns $5,000 for his year-long term. Both the MUSG president and vice president will make $2,300 next year.

Dunlap said the financial vice president is paid more because he continues to work with closing statements and checks during the summer. He also said the higher salary attracts stronger candidates for the job who may otherwise decide to get internships.

In total, MUSG executive members and staff made $33,500 for their work this year. The academic and residence hall senators are not paid.

A lesser-known aspect of MUSG concerns the funding of student-initiated events, something which Executive Vice President Joey Ciccone, and Dunlap, have spent the past year reforming within MUSG.

This year, MUSG budgeted for $97,956 to go to non-club sports organizations and $55,464 to go to club sports student organizations. The final deadline for funding was March 11, and the list of funds allocated was released last Thursday.

Under the current system, MUSG has seven periods in which organizations can request funding. Starting April 20, however, MUSG will change to a system for non-club sports with two funding periods in the fall and three in the spring, in an effort to give organizations more time to prepare and publicize their events.

The process will also be renamed the “Student Organization Funding Process.”

Throughout each year, MUSG reviews official requests for funding from various student organizations and agrees to reimburse the group if it is holding an event that will benefit the campus. Ciccone currently heads the eight-person committee that reviews the requests and votes whether to accept the requests.

If a request is accepted, the organization receiving funding has to pay the costs of the event up front and submit receipts along with a reimbursement form within a month after the event has taken place.

This has led to problems in the past, Dunlap said.

“Sometimes (students) either forget to submit the reimbursement form or they expense items that they may not have been granted funding for,” he said.

If the student organizations do not get properly reimbursed, the money is deposited into the MUSG Reserve Fund. The Reserve Fund money can only be used if the Senate votes to approve a special proposal to take out some of the funds.

Earlier this year, MUSG voted to take $50,000 out of the Reserve Fund to pay for consulting firm Moody Nolan Inc. to analyze the recreational facilities at Marquette.

For a submission to be accepted by MUSG, the event must also be registered and approved by the Office of Student Development. Dunlap said this helps ensure the group will not try to fraud MUSG.

Another issue with funding arises when there is not enough money to go around, and student organizations often have to compete for the limited funding that goes to non-club sports organizations.

This issue was raised during Sunday night’s MUSG presidential debate. During the debate, junior executive vice presidential candidate Kirsten de Guzman said there have been times where she had to fill out allocation requests for events within her sorority.

De Guzman said in the future she would like to see more interaction between MUSG and student organizations so students know the best way to go about receiving funding.

In the most recent funding period, for example, $25,389.06 was collectively requested by 25 different organizations. Only $12,074.00 was allocated, however.

Furthermore, of the $12,074 allocated, $5,000 alone was given to the College Republicans to host political commentator Michelle Malkin.

How does a group get funding?

Dunlap and Ciccone stressed that MUSG is looking to fund events that take place on-campus. Ciccone said that the last two allocation periods have resulted in 100 percent of money allocated going to on-campus events.

Ciccone said in the past, only around 20-50 percent of funds were allocated to on-campus events, but the results of an MUSG survey earlier in the year stated that nearly 95 percent of students said they would prefer to see money spent on events held on campus.

Both Dunlap and Ciccone gave some tips for organizations looking to maximize funding:

1) Apply early. For example, if you have an event scheduled for March, consider applying during the fall semester, assuming you have enough details regarding the event. More funds are available during the earlier periods.

2) Provide a detailed budget (AMU price quotes, estimated food costs, sources of funds, etc.). Also, the committee looks at the sources of funding for each event (like the participants, student organization funds, member dues, or MUSG contributing funds).

3) Reach out to members within MUSG, including the executive vice president and the financial vice president. Ask to meet and go over applications, as sometimes they are restricted from funding certain aspects of events (such as travel/food expenses for conferences).

4) Don’t have MUSG be the sole provider of funding. Reach out to other organizations such as the Residence Hall Association and raise funds separately from MUSG.

5) Make the event open to all students, not just members of the group.

Overall, Dunlap said the process of selecting which groups to fund is not black and white.

“In the end,” he said, “it comes down to who we can trust, who has their planning together, and which events will benefit the students most.”

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