Blanket tax process remains work in progress
A recent decision by the Blanket Tax Committee to recommend an organization for subsidiary status is at risk of being overturned (see p. 1). The current blanket tax process, established last year, has done away with many of issues that plagued the old system, but is still a work in progress. Pressing concerns must be addressed for the system to remain fair and sustainable.
The composition of the BTC does not adequately represent the interest of clubs that have the potential to become subsidiary organizations. A majority of the BTC’s voting members are affiliated with subsidiary organizations, and even then they only represent a small fraction of said organizations. These representatives are susceptible to advocating more favorably for the organizations with which they are affiliated. Oversight of the BTC by a completely separate, unaffiliated committee would be advisable, and could help mitigate the workload of BTC members and make the process more accessible.
Currently, the BTC must oversee the entire blanket tax process, which includes ensuring financial bookkeeping remains accurate. As evidenced by previous discussions surrounding Rice Video Productions and current talks regarding Catalyst, the maintenance of clear monetary records is crucial for rendering proper decisions. A separate committee could realistically focus on verifying the accuracy of subsidiary organization documentation.
Everyone should have equal access to the process. However, those on the BTC will inevitably better understand the evaluation process than organizations without access to the inner workings of the BTC, some of which may be interested in applying for subsidiary status. In theory, all meetings are public and the process is easy to understand. In reality, meetings are convened mere hours after public announcement and minutes take weeks to appear online. Unfair advantages are likely to emerge when BTC members also represent clubs applying for subsidiary status. It isn’t so much that there’s a risk members won’t recuse themselves when necessary, but that the process remains difficult to understand despite efforts to clarify it. When students vote on a ballot item regarding subsidiary status, they cannot easily find the financial records of the club in question or quickly understand the process through which the club has gone to appear on the ticket. Effort must be made to ensure the process is accessible and straightforward to clubs interested in becoming subsidiary organizations, existing subsidiary organizations and those voting on subsidiary status.
The aforementioned separate committee could help review the BTC and recommend constitutional changes that would smoothen the process and establish protocol for rare situations or edge cases. Any significant undertaking takes time to perfect, and the blanket tax policy revisions are no different. The new process is among the largest undergraduate policy change of the past few years, and because of how impactful it is to the undergraduate experience, it deserves additional attention.
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