Special to The Denisonian

Have you ever wondered if Denison actually delivers on its goal of helping us become “autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents and active citizens of a democratic society?” I think most students would agree that we receive an excellent education, but many schools can offer a similar education. What makes Denison special?

Last semester, the ad hoc committee on Budgeting for Student Organizations explored the funding structures of dozens of colleges across the country. Most members of the ad hoc committee were not DCGA senators, but dedicated leaders in many other aspects of campus life. I was grateful for their willingness to put in time and energy to improve the finance committee and promote better communication and accountability in the budgeting process.

We discovered that compared to other colleges, Denison provides more opportunities for students to create programming, plan a budget and manage student organizations. The members of the ad hoc committee chose to engage in the committee for many different reasons, but we all shared a common goal of making self-government more effective on campus. We shared different perspectives and created avenues of communication for the future. I encourage you to emulate this willingness to engage in dialogue. Actively participate in conversations about goals for your organization and for our community as a whole.

Writing a budget is an important form of communication because it outlines how each organization wants to impact campus for the upcoming school year. When writing the budget for your organization for next school year, I ask that you consider three points. First, consider the practical matter of available funds. The expected budget available to allocate for organizations during initial budget allocations this spring totals around $850,000. This is similar to the amount available for allocations last year, so to be realistic about the amount of funding an organization might receive, I advise planning a budget with requests totaling an amount similar to the amount your organization received last year.

Certainly, budgets will not look exactly the same as last year, but part of the budgeting problem stems from overzealous expectations about realistic requests. Last year $1.6 million was requested, but the budget only allowed for half of those requests to receive funding. Everyone felt the disappointment when a request that took a lot of time to plan didn’t receive funding. Focus attention on planning a few fantastic events to match the realities of the budget without wasting energy on planning excessive programming. Collaborations are encouraged because they facilitate efficient use of funds while creating opportunities for students from many avenues of campus life to come together for one common goal.

Creating student programming involves more than just balancing a spreadsheet. The types of events we hold on this campus reflect the opportunities we want to experience. With this second aspect of the budgeting process, I call on leaders of organizations to ask themselves what unique value their organization brings to campus, and how that value can be shared across campus and the community through programming. Carefully putting time into intentional programming will result in meaningful requests. This will lead to meaningful programming that improves the quality of experiences for all students at Denison.

Finally, I urge you to open yourselves to engagement not just for budgeting but also in all aspects of campus self-governance. DCGA hears the concerns about the quality of democracy on campus and strives for continual improvement. When our democratic processes seem to fail, apathy feels like a natural response, but it only escalates disconnect within the community. I urge you to give engagement a second chance and together we can create programming to foster an incredible college experience.