With COVID-19 halting all student organizations from traveling and preventing many groups from meeting in person, the primary function of Northwest’s Student Senate has been stunted, but the group’s leadership has tried to be creative in getting its funds to students.
Student Senate had rollover funds from the previous two school years already as it headed into the 2019-20 school year, and the onset of the coronavirus in March closing campus prematurely created more rollover funds.
Funds — which are granted through a 50 cents per credit hour cocurricular fee for all students — that are not spent by Student Senate’s various committees throughout the year rollover to the next year and make up a separate budget category known as the University Improvement Budget.
In the past, this budget has been used to upgrade the International Flag Plaza, install a bus shelter on the north end of campus for the Safe Ride Home shuttle program and make upgrades to the J.W. Jones Student Union through new paint, carpet and furniture.
At the Oct. 22 Board of Regents Meeting, Student Senate President Kirayle Jones briefed the Board on the rollover funds and said the University Improvement Committee is working to purchase a net to cover the parking lot on campus adjacent to the baseball field to prevent baseballs from damaging cars.
Excluding the University Improvement Committee, which only exists as an ad hoc committee when rollover funds exist, the Organizational Finance Committee is the biggest money-giving arm of Student Senate. The committee has the ability to officially recognize new student organizations, but it also provides student organizations appropriations, co-sponsorships and charitable donations if requested.
In the last two years, the committee’s primary goal has been to establish much more frequent communication with student organizations and give more appropriations to organizations that need funds. In the 2018-19 school year, Student Senate granted so many appropriations that it voted to move more money into the appropriations budget partway through the spring 2019 semester.
With COVID-19 interrupting the end of the spring 2020 semester and the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, some of that momentum was lost. Appropriations are most often granted to organizations seeking assistance with travel expenses, but with the University blocking all travel, none of those appropriation requests could come in.
Organizational Finance Committee Chair Chloe Kallhoff said the committee, which started the year with a $30,000 budget, has taken a different approach to reaching out to organizations since in-person meetings are often not possible.
Although the committee has reached out to organizations through Zoom, email and social media, only three appropriation requests have been made so far this semester.
In spite of the challenges, Kallhoff said her committee has been working hard to get funding to students.
“(We’ve been) trying to maintain a sense of normalcy,” Kallhoff said in an email to the Missourian. “In years past, we have been very critical of organizations’ budgets and plans. This year, we are approaching applications with a more open mind and trying to help organizations lead a successful year. We understand that fundraising is a challenge this year, more than most, and we are taking that into consideration.”