Overcomplicated DCGA budgeting process causes campus controversy

MARY CLARE EDWARDS & NINA COSDON — What was supposed to be a cut-and-dry distribution of funding for campus organizations devolved into a campus-wide upset, calling the integrity of the DCGA finance committee into question. One of the primary responsibilities of the Denison Campus Governance Association (DCGA) is to organize a committee of eleven class and community senators to allocate funding to any organizations that formally request it. Organizations submitted their budgets in mid-February, and all approved budgets were released at the beginning of April.

The upset was caused by the appearance that many Cross-Cultural Community (C3) organizations were underfunded and by recent comments made by finance committee member Kyle Mares ‘20. Senator Mares was overheard disparaging certain organizations that applied for budget appeals during both an out-of-state school trip and an informal finance committee meeting. Mares was reported to have made insensitive comments toward organizations like Black Student Union, Active Minds and Asian Culture Club, all of which filed for budget appeals on the grounds that their budgets were not fairly considered.

Fellow finance committee member Matthew Nowling ‘21 responded to Mares’ comments,

“I am equally disgusted and disappointed by the words by my fellow committee member. The Finance Committee is built on trust, not just between us and the student body, and but also between one another.”

Mares has since apologized, but some campus organizations pointed to his remarks as one reason why the budgeting and appeals processes needs to be reconceived.

Florence Go ‘20 Vice President of Asian Culture Club (ACC) expressed her concerns with the budget allocation process.

“ACC requested roughly $4,000 for the upcoming school year and the funds we were distributed were significantly less, we received less than $1,000. Before we submitted our budget, we followed protocol and the treasurer of ACC met with our DCGA Finance representative. They met for five minutes and were were verbally told our budget was good and to submit it.”

Go ‘20 then explained that the underfunding was a result of bad communication. If ACC had not written “in collaboration with GCC” for an event detailed in their budget they would have most likely received the funds they requested. However, their DCGA Finance representative did not catch this. However, DCGA claims they are not liable for this and that it was ACC’s responsibility to notice this mistake.

Mares attempted to explain the budgeting and appeals process. Mares described budgeting as a 50 hour-long process, in which the committee goes through all submitted applications line-by-line to vote on which specific requests can and should be funded. Submitting a budget is a process Senator Mares describes as “bureaucratic at best,” and requires all proposals to be filled out in a precise format. If they are not, clubs won’t receive adequate funding.”

Nowling ‘21 further explained how much budget DCGA has to work with.

“This year, all organizations on campus requested over 1.3 million dollars. The finance committee this year had roughly $800,000 to distribute. This number depends on how many members there are in the student body each year.”

But what happens when clubs feel they have received inadequate funding? Organizations may choose to file for a budget appeal, which is what many did. Amber Owens ‘21, a Black Student Union (BSU) community senator, calls the finance committee’s allocation of funding a “Complete and total abuse of power.” The BSU was one student organization that appealed for more money, which Owens attributed to the club wanting their budget looked at again without bias. Owens called for DCGA’s finance committee to be held accountable for what she perceives as “racialized and individualized targeting.”

Amidst the controversy, a recent #OccupyDCGA movement called for many changes to the budgeting process, including asking DCGA to host weekly public drafting meetings to design a new finance system.

Amirah Loury ‘19 posted in the Denison University Student Body Facebook group about the issue:

“Show C3 communities your support. Our posters were ripped down for months and most of you in this Facebook group sat by and watched. I expect the same passion and outspoken regard in defending us against the racist verbal abuse we have faced last week by DCGA senators. Please read these demands and come Tuesday as we #OccupyDCGA until our demands are met.”

Mares agreed in an interview with The Denisonian that the finance committee is in need of reform, saying that he hopes to make DCGA “a place that is productive and constructive, and not divisive.”

The last DCGA Senate meeting of the 2018-19 year will be held on April 30, 2019, at 6:30 p.m. in the Curtis Provost Dining Room. The Denisonian will publish an online update following that meeting.

Budgeting reforms are things to consider looking ahead, especially when students return to campus this upcoming fall semester to kick off the 2019-20 academic year.

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