Historically, students love to complain about DePaul’s Student Government Association (SGA). Take a look at DePaul SGA on Facebook and you will find multiple low ratings and poor reviews.
One of the biggest complaints has been that SGA at DePaul hasn’t been transparent to the student body. After meetings last week, SGA decided to release their budget.
Ben Bui is the treasurer for SGA in charge of all budgetary matters. He said that he is dedicated to making the finances more transparent when it comes to SGA’s operating costs.
“We have never shown our budget before and I wanted to showcase it,” he said.
Bui said he ran on a platform of increased budget transparency. He said that he hopes this gesture shows that he is serious about making that happen.
Currently, SGA is not required to release their operating budget per their constitution. However, Bui said that he has been working on getting an amendment passed that would make the budget open to the entire student body.
Peggy Burke, the faculty advisor for SGA, said that she is in support of Bui’s decision. She agreed that SGA could stand to be more accountable to the student body.
“Yes, they could definitely be more transparent,” she said. Burke said it was important to note that she believed SGA has not been intentionally holding anything back.
“They just need to get a little better at communicating,” she said.
At the time of publication, Bui was unable to provide a complete line item budget. He said that he wants to get the approval of the general body and executive board before he produces the budget in its entirety.
Over the past 5 years, the SGA budget has declined nearly $8,000. When asked about the budget cuts, Bui mentioned a decline in students. He said that since the SGA budget comes out of the university budget, a decline in enrollment can often mean a decline in funding.
Trying to compare DePaul’s SGA budget to other universities can get tricky. The University of Chicago’s SGA budget, for example, is $2.2 million dollars. At first glance, that seems to be a gross imbalance, and while it is true that the University of Chicago has a larger endowment than DePaul, the imbalance is mostly due to program funding.
Some university student governments are directly in charge of funding student organizations. At DePaul, that is not the case. Instead, the Student Activities Fee Board (SAF-B), an independent organization, is in charge of funding student organizations on campus.
What DePaul SGA is left with is strictly an operational budget. This year DePaul SGA has an operating budget of $16,548. Loyola’s SGA operating budget is $24,775, and University of Chicago’s is $40,000. The University of Illinois at Chicago and Columbia College could not provide budget information at the time of publication.
Gracie Covarrubias, vice president of DePaul SGA, said that she wishes the budget would be restored to its 2013 level — when it was nearly $25,000.
“Our budget keeps getting cut,” she said. “It really limits the type of programming that we are able to put on for the DePaul community.”
Covarrubias said that due to budget cuts, there often isn’t room for events that SGA wishes to independently sponsor. Instead, they need to seek out partnerships with student organizations in order to get funding from the board SAF-B.
Covarrubias wondered if perhaps DePaul could learn a lesson from colleges like the University of Chicago and combine their programming with their SGA.
“Our senators want to engage with the DePaul community in exciting ways,” she said. “But we don’t have the funding right now.”
Pending approval of the SGA general body, a full break down of the budget will be provided in the coming weeks.