Groups find allocations confusing

By Marissa Meredyth

When the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity only recieved partial funding from the Student… When the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity only received partial funding from the Student Government Board at last week’s meeting, it only added to the discontent among student groups over the allocations process.

The student group is one of several organizations who, in the past few weeks, have accused the allocations process of being confusing and inconsistent. But the Board maintains its position that the process is fair and clear.

In the past week the recently certified Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity opted to not attend a North Carolina conference after only receiving funds for four members and one hotel room.

It requested funding for two rooms and seven members, but the Allocations Committee recommended the Board only approve funding for four. The group explained that it needed two rooms so that men and women would not have to sleep in the same room, but the Board upheld the committee’s recommendation.

The Board denied funding based on precedents, which are often-cited, unwritten rules of the Board that are not mentioned in the allocations manual. This is one in a number of requests that has caused student organization leaders to contest the allocation process and challenge how the new 2011 Board is deciding requests.

Allocation Annoyance

Phi Alpha Delta, which is not religiously affiliated, is new to campus. Founding President Patricia Leftwich said it was certified in December.

She added it was important that the group attend the conference to establish the chapter at Pitt and bring national recognition to the University’s law programs.

This request was only its second since becoming certified. Phi Alpha Delta Business manager Malcolm Winne said the first request was for its $350 chartering fee on Nov. 1. This was automatically approved by the Allocations Committee, since it was under $500.00. The Board only hears requests over that amount.

Leftwich said the executive board of the group attended Allocations 101 — an informational session that outlined the most common problems with requests — and has previously been involved in other certified organizations on campus.

“The entire process is ridiculous,” Leftwich said. “Too much is left to interpretation and not enough to guidelines.”

The confusing process has frustrated other organizations.

Natalie Pavlov, Athletic Training Student Association’s business manager, recently had an entire request denied. The organization requested funding for four members to attend a national conference in New Orleans.

The conference involved networking for job opportunities, and according to Allocations Chair Mike Bane, “represented highly personalized expenses, which SGB is prohibited from funding for.”

The allocations manual says, “SGB may under no circumstance fund for expenses judged to be the responsibility of individual members of the student organization.”

Board president Molly Stieber said whereas the Board attempts to make its decisions clear during the meeting, it simply can not spend the entire meeting explaining one decision.

The Decision

The Allocations Manual states that there is a $2,000-a-year conference cap for student organizations, but it does not document the four-person precedent often insisted on by the Board.

The fraternity’s request of $607.56 was well under the $2,000 limit. The Board unanimously approved $219.72 and denied $387.84 at its meeting last week.

This would mean Leftwich would have to share a room with three male students.

The funding application does not currently require information regarding the gender or name of attendees at a conference. The conference request form only includes the number of attendees, registration cost, and lodging and transportation costs.

Leftwich has religious objections to rooming with the men and felt that the decision violated policies set forth by the administration.

“No student, regardless of their religion, race or gender, should be subject to such blatant discrimination and erroneous policies,” Leftwich posted as a comment online on The Pitt News’ story “SGB discusses bedroom assignments” on Feb. 24.

Board President Molly Stieber said she plans to meet with the organization Wednesday. Stieber was frustrated that she had not yet met with the group.

She encouraged organizations to come to the office on the eighth floor of the William Pitt Union with any concerns, preferably before a decision has been rendered.

“[Student organizations] can complain all they want, but if [they] don’t come to talk to us, no understanding can be reached,” she said.

Moving Forward

Leftwich plans to meet with the Board, Allocations Committee, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and other Pitt administrators in the upcoming week.

She insisted that the organization was not trying to attack individual members of the Board or committee, and that there were no harsh feelings.

“We aren’t waging some crusades,” Leftwich said.

Bane mentioned that he is currently working heavily with Terry Milani, allocations adviser, to update and revise the current allocations manual to clarify policies to which SGB is bound to prevent future misunderstandings.

“The ongoing initiatives of this Board illustrate our commitment to make the process as clear as possible for student groups, and SGB encourages groups to stop by 848 WPU or send us e-mails with any concerns,” he said in an e-mail.

Stieber emphasized the fact that SGB is comprised of students, just like other organizations, and that it is doing the best it can.

She also said, “Students that take the time to understand the process, come to the office and speak with us, have a much better time.”