Student organization process to speed up

New bylaws mean organizations won’t wait as long for funds; Zimride contract extended

Story by Nate Beck, Chief Copy Editor

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Say you want to start a bug collecting club on campus.

First, talk to UW-Eau Claire Student Senate’s Organizations Commission. They’ll tell Senate Finance Commission which orgs should get student money. Then finance decides how much your bug club needs for nets, corkboard and pushpins.

All said and done, the process takes about a year and a half.

But a set of finance bylaw changes, passed at Senate’s meeting Monday, will cut the wait down to about six months.

“I think this is a great change, it will make funds way more accessible for student orgs,” senator Christian Paese said.

But the bylaw change — which goes into effect in 2015 — won’t just make the process faster, it could also make it more competitive, Organizations Commission director Zach Ahola said.

“I think this is a much better way to handle the organization process,” Ahola said. “I think we will see more organizations apply for funding.”

Ahola said in some cases, students who started the founding process graduated by the time finance rubber-stamped student money for their org.

The number of student organizations on campus depends on money left in the Student Organizations Fund the year prior.

Under new bylaws, cash set aside for student organizations must total at least 1 percent of the amount collected in the Seg Fees the year before.

But enrollment at Eau Claire has been declining for the last few years. And Paese said he’s wary of basing org funding on more than a 1 percent margin.

“One concern I had is, in a declining enrollment situation … that one percent is going to be more than one percent when the budget comes out the next year,” Paese said. “It’s not the end of the world and it’s definitely a lot more certain.”

For example — if senate collects $4 million in seg fees this year, student orgs will expect to operate on 1 percent of that, or $40,000 total.

But if less students sign up for classes next year and Senate isn’t able to collect $4 million, the $40,000 for orgs adds up to more than 1 percent of the total, and could cut into other student-funded programs.

But he said the bylaw change is an improvement on the current process because org funding is based on actual numbers, not projected ones like the current system.

ZIMRIDE CONTRACT

Senate also approved $8,000 toward a campus carpooling program.

Eau Claire is in the last year of its contract with Zimride, an online forum connecting traveling students with students seeking rides.

SOS absorbs the brunt of the $12,000 annual charge for the program, and the Eau Claire Parking and Transportation Office chips in the last $4,000.

But last year, Zimride use dipped. The number of posted rides fell from about 7,000 in 2012 to about 5,000 last year.

Enterprise rental cars bought Zimride last summer, and during the transition, online and email marketing for the program dwindled. Emy Marier, Senate SOS director said that marketing gap helps explain why fewer people are using the program.

“It’s just that awkward just-got-bought transition period,” Marier said.

Under Enterprise, Zimride will offer prize giveaways, like an iPad, to get user numbers back up. Bailey Kramer, SOS event intern said these incentives aim to bring usage closer to its first-year spike.

“When things are new and shiny, people tend to go toward them,” she said.

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