Each Ohio University travel guide proudly touts the school’s “over 550 student organizations” to prospective students. Traversing the brick streets, the OU-clad guides often offer an accompanying quip: “and if there’s not one you like, you can start your own!”
But these organizations weren’t born out of College Green, never mind their appearance at the annual turnout fair. On the contrary, these organizations require hard work, student leadership and, of course, money. Student organizations have the ability to tap into OU funds through the Student Credits Committee, or SAC, which provides financial support to student groups. However, this funding needs to be readjusted to better serve UO student organizations.
Student executive members of each organization must apply for SAC funding in order to receive money, and they must also attend information sessions. Student treasurers are also required to read the OUs Treasurer’s Manual, a detailed document explaining how to use SAC funds. Organizations can apply for bi-weekly and semi-annual funding through SAC by providing detailed information requests.
This process is only logical, but the steps that follow prove to be less useful. Groups with semi-annual funding have only a short time to use the allegedly sanctioned money for the entire semester. The Treasurer’s Manual states that “misspent or unused funds will be audited and returned to ISC”. This comes with a mid-September deadline to spend all allocated funds semi-annually. Any money not spent by this deadline is recovered and the organization cannot recover it.
Student groups are also not allowed to use Venmo, which limits their ability to fundraise on campus. Many students have some form of virtual payment option on their phone, but cannot carry cash, as evidenced by a USA Today Survey 2019 which revealed that university students are much more likely to use virtual payment forms than cash. A Deliotte 2021 study reported a 20% increase in mobile payment options following the COVID-19 pandemic. Preventing organizations from using alternative payment methods limits the donations they can receive.
The format for reporting and requesting funds is also incredibly confusing. Student treasurers use a program called Oracle Business Intelligence, or OBI, which is remarkably unnavigable. Perhaps the acronyms and jargon would make sense to the experienced accountant, but for largely volunteer student positions, the system isn’t as user-friendly as it could be.
It’s understandable that SAC funding wants to make sure the money isn’t pocketed, but if the funds are distributed to last an entire semester, the money should be able to be spent throughout the semester. Alternative payment methods should also be allowed, as the current policy denies funding opportunities to student groups. Finally, while a system should be in place for record keeping, it should be one that is easy to understand.
My advice? The SAC funding system should be reorganized to better support the students for whom it is intended. SAC should consider extending the period that organizations can spend their semester funds so that the money can stretch the time allocated to it, with detailed record keeping to ensure funds are being used properly. Additionally, students should be allowed to accept Venmo, with a Venmo account created linked to their club’s OR bank account. Finally, SAC should consider implementing a simpler funds program than OBI, such as a from the plethora of easier-to-use online resources.
OU student groups are fortunate to have a system in place, just as OU is fortunate to be populated with so many enthusiastic students, but both groups must compromise to better serve their organizations so that no one has to pay the price for a lack of funds.
Katie Millard is a junior journalism student at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The post office. What are your thoughts? Tell Katie by tweeting her at @katie_millard11.