University of Miami sophomore Erica Steinmiller was excited to see hip-hop star, Common, perform on campus during Homecoming week Friday, Nov. 6, but she also wondered who picked up the check.
The Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee’s duty since its founding in 1967 is to decide how to spend about 40 percent of the activity fees collected from undergraduate students each year totaling about $800,000. SAFAC then divides a portion of this money to the 222 student organizations registered through the Committee on Student Organizations.
One of the beneficiaries of this was the Hurricane Howl concert which brought artists Common and The Wailers this year. SAFAC supplied the money to Hurricane Productions and the Homecoming Executive Committee in order to pay for the performers.
“I think it’s the organizations, along with COSO, that has an impact on student life,” said senior Chelsea Werner, the chair for SAFAC. “[We’re] able to provide opportunities for all different students on campus.”
The committee is made up of 13 student liaisons, the non-voting chair and a non-voting advisor. Each liaison is responsible for a key aspect of campus life and the organizations associated with it. For example, the Greek life liaison deals with requests from fraternities and sororities.
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Gilbert Arias, said the committee was founded because, “it gave the students an opportunity to become involved in student activities and in the programs and events on campus. It’s important for students to have a voice and to be involved.”
The SAFAC board currently consists of six females and eight males with majors ranging from music performance to accounting and microbiology. The group meets on Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. in the University Center room 211 with advisor Laura Stott, director of Student Affairs, to discuss fee allocation requests. Ultimately, the last word rests with Vice President of Student Affairs, Pat Whitely, to whom the board reports.
In the spring semester, each of the student organizations has to submit a “regular” budget that outlines the funding it typically requires for the upcoming year. Then, the SAFAC board holds a “budget weekend” to review the proposals and finalize funding decisions. SAFAC also considers supplemental and capital expenditure requests throughout the academic year. The members provide workshops on the funding process and serve as a resource for student organizations on financial matters.
Some may wonder whether it is fair for a small group of students to decide what is a valid use of the small but useful fraction of student activity fees.
“You’re not convincing them it’s a good use of money; you’re convincing them it goes along with the rules,” said senior Ricky Fernandez, president of the Federation of Cuban Students.
Last year, FEC’s budget included a request for money to buy art supplies for office decorations, but SAFAC deemed that unnecessary because “they were not an essential part of the organization,” Fernandez said.
Unfair? Fernandez doesn’t think so.
“There are over 200 organizations on campus. It’s only fair that they’re held to the same standards as far as what is funded and what is not,” he said.
SAFAC has, however, provided funds for “conferences, performances, tournaments for sports teams and even T-shirts,” Werner said.
If an organization does not agree with a SAFAC decision, it may submit an appeal form to the Office of Student Affairs. After reviewing the appeal, the committee will decide whether they think it is valid. Then they will meet with the organization and present the appeal to the Student Government Senate. If the Senate supports the appeal, then the request is submitted to Whitely for final approval.
If you are interested in joining SAFAC, the board is looking for “people who have a diversity of experience on campus and who can be unbiased. We look at male to female ratio and major,” Werner said. “It’s important to get all different viewpoints.”