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COVID cutting costs: explaining spring 2021 ASG budget allocations

Miami University’s Associated Student Government (ASG) allocated just $67,000 of the $210,000 it initially budgeted for its first round of student organization funding this semester. 

But looks can be deceiving. The reasoning behind the allocation deficit is simple: Clubs are asking ASG for far less money this year. 

Senior Ben Waugh is an accounting and finance double major who serves as the secretary of finance for ASG. He was in charge of creating the $210,000 “budget” for this semester.

“The $210,000 budget is an arbitrary number I pulled based off last year’s requests and what I thought we would allocate for this particular hearing,” Waugh said. “That’s just a filler number, and it is also not a limit on what we allocate. ASG can allocate whatever funding’s left in the ASG account.”

Waugh also explained the lower amount of allocated funds was the result of lower requests by student organizations, likely due to COVID-19.

“Last year, we allocated $185,000 to student organizations,” he said. “With the pandemic, organizations are a lot more limited on what they can do.”

Sophomore Caleb Wright, treasurer of the Outdoor Adventure Club, said his organization requested less funding because it isn’t able to be as active due to the pandemic.

“Because of COVID, we didn’t have that many trips to plan,” he said. “Even last semester, we just wanted to get the club better resources for next year since we couldn't go anywhere.”

As such, the Outdoor Adventure Club focused on getting supplies and equipment for trips next year. Around $2,100 was allocated to the organization during the last budget hearing.

“We didn’t really know how much we wanted for the semester because we didn’t really need new stuff,” Wright said.

Some clubs also submitted smaller funding requests because they were new. Under the university’s student organization tier system of budgeting that determines ASG funding, there are four tiers, each with different funding limits. 

Heather Merhout is a junior music composition major and is the treasurer of Art Music Club, an organization that falls under the tier one classification, meaning it can only request up to $1,500 a semester.

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“Because we had just started the club last spring, we weren’t focusing on getting money,” Merhout said. “Once we became a tier one club, $1,500 is the max that you are allowed to request — we’re lucky that we got it.”

Other clubs just didn’t need additional funding this semester. Sundeep Vaswani, treasurer of Miami’s Chess Club, said the organization needed only $800 for this budget hearing.

“We are currently a tier two club, but we requested less money this semester than last spring,” Vaswani said. “This is because we bought boards and pieces with the money last spring, and with the chess club, you kind of just buy those things once and they’re there forever.”

The budget allocations for this spring have been low so far, but so have the opportunities for clubs to spend money in their budgets. 

Pandemic measures have restricted some clubs and removed the possibility of expensive trips; others simply function in a way that doesn’t need constant funding and still others are not established enough to get large amounts of money. 

ASG may have allocated less this semester, but these other factors make it impossible to have expected otherwise.