The Associated Students of the University of Montana spent the weekend funding UM student groups with the most money they have ever received. After 19 hours of budgeting, senators allocated more than $1 million to various campus organizations.
“All the decisions we made, we made off of good decisions and not because we just wanted to get out of there,” ASUM Business Manager Micah Nielsen said.
A $6 increase to ASUM student fees gave groups an extra $144,660 this budgeting session. Senators budgeted $143,660 directly to student groups, while the remainder went to ASUM administration.
Vice President Bryn Hagfors said the money allowed ASUM to give more support to vital groups on campus.
“For student groups, we have to take into account what it takes for them to be involved,” Hagfors said. “We want to maximize the impact we can make with our dollars, and we want to be efficient.”
To allocate the extra funds appropriately, senators spent time last week meeting with agencies and student groups. Senator Stevie Freund said ASUM was able to gain perspective into the groups’ financial situations.
“We sat there for five hours in four days to listen to these groups,” Freund said. “We should be able to determine their needs sufficiently.”
ASUM distributed roughly $100,000 more to student groups this year than in 2012, Nielsen said. Funds will be dispersed when the fiscal year starts July 1.
The Graduate Student Association was a contentious student group budget for senators. Last year, the group received a total of $100 from ASUM. This year they received $2,538.18. Senators allocated just under $2,000 for the group’s student liaison position, about $700 less than GSA requested.
Daniel Biehl, GSA co-president, said the student liaison would work to improve the group’s relationship with ASUM and University administration. GSA also wants help uniting the 2,000 graduate students on campus, Biehl said.
“Typically, you’re going to have over 75 percent of students in your graduate program, who not only go to school but also have a job or kid,” Biehl said. “It’s just very hard to find anyone who has time to take on any issues.”
Senator Brandon Simpson disagreed that ASUM should fund GSA student positions, saying he felt Biehl’s vision was unrealistic.
“Every student group on campus has the potential to have every student in it,” Brandon said. “The fact of the matter is they don’t and it’s unfeasible to say GSA will.”
Senator Damara Simpson argued in support of GSA. She said GSA’s four members found the position necessary, and it is not the senators’ job to determine what GSA’s needs are.
“(ASUM) represents 15,000 students, which means each one of us represent around 550 students,” Simpson said. “The four of them represent 500 students each, so I think they have a good grasp of how to make judgments for their body.”
Including GSA, ASUM funded 183 student groups this budgeting session.