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Wednesday, December 06, 2023 — Houston, TX

Show me the money: Treasurers balance college funds

Ashley Zhang / Thresher

By Max Scholl     11/7/23 11:07pm

From massive public parties to “Board Boards” — committees focused on restocking whiteboards — there are many ways Rice’s residential colleges spend their budgets. However, the nuts and bolts of the budgeting process, like where colleges get their money from, is lesser known.

Duncan College treasurer Akshay Shyam said the office of the dean of undergraduates allocates each college a base amount of money every year. Larger colleges receive additional money to accommodate for the larger population, he added.

Some colleges also get rollover funds from alumni donations which, according to Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman, are separate from what Rice administration manages.

“[Donations] are allocated to colleges based on the specific details of the gift, and spending must adhere to the details in a donor agreement,” Gorman wrote in an email to the Thresher. “Donations play no role in the process of allocating funds from my office to the colleges.”

Then, college treasurers are mostly left to their own devices to make sure everything gets funded, Lovett College treasurer Zac Ambrose said.    

“The treasurer process is surprisingly a black box,” Ambrose, a junior, said. “We never really get specific instructions from Rice on not just on how to use the money, but what the rules even are. The only things we know are handed down orally from the past treasurers.”

Many college treasurers said they allocated the most money to socials committees and publics. For instance, Lovett, whose budget is publicly available, has dedicated $9,000 to its socials events this year.

However, Will Rice College spends more on their Beer Bike committee than their public, Risky Business. Will Rice allocates $6,000 to their Beer Bike week and $4,500 to their socials, Will Rice treasurer Kennedi Macklin wrote in an email to the Thresher.  

Wiess College, on the other hand, spends almost double what many other colleges spend on their publics — around $12,000 on average, according to Lana Kim, a Wiess treasurer.

“We do host [Night of Decadence], which is a huge event across campus,” Kim, a junior, said. “With that comes a lot of money, not just for decorations, but also for security for students and ambulances.”

Across all the residential colleges, diversity and cultural initiatives are also factored into the budget. Sid Richardson College, for example, spent a combined $900 on diversity committees and Black Caucus last year. McMurtry College now grants nearly $4,000 per semester to its diversity, cultural and affinity committees, the college’s treasurers told the Thresher in an email.

“Our diversity committee is called ‘Culturals,’ but we also have other diversity committees that are new this year,” Anish Attarde, a Lovett junior, said. “[Lovett] has not only Culturals, which is our elected committee, but also the diversity council, which helps form smaller cultural affinity groups within Lovett.”

The budgeting process is not without its difficulties. Not all committees receive the same amounts of funding, so college treasurers may find themselves unable to fund every plan that a committee wants to put into action. For instance, Sid Richardson treasurer Bryant Polanco cited the theater committee as one receiving less funding than they might want.

“I know our theater committee is trying to expand their plays and host really big performances at Sid Richardson, so I would definitely put more funding towards [them],” Polanco, a junior, said. “There are some committees at Sid who have to request for funding through the Initiative Fund, a fund for everybody in Sid to do anything that they believe would benefit the college. It would be helpful to put money towards [the Initiative Fund] too.”

Communication between administration and college treasurers can present another set of difficulties. Rice allocates treasurers their exact budget amount in mid-September, Ambrose said, so colleges begin the semester by operating off estimates from the previous year.

“If we get the real [budget] and it’s lower than predicted, then we have to sit down again with every single committee and reformulate how to divide the budget,” Attarde said.

Jasper Munden, a treasurer from Jones College, said that treasurers’ responsibilities are to make sure that the interests of the college are satisfied. 

“As a treasurer, it’s not necessarily my goal to spend [the budget] on whatever I want,” Munden, a sophomore, said. “I have to have the interests of the college in mind.”

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