30th November 2018

FundIt is a farce

The University’s Student Union needs to find a better means of funding student societies instead of running away from actual accountability
FundIt is a farce
Photo: University of Manchester Students’ Union

FundIt is a mess. Worse still, it is the main means by which student societies in the University get financial support from the Students’ Union. The way it works? Student societies are forced to directly compete for a limited pool of SU funding in some parody of a democratic process.

For a student society to gain financial help from the SU they need to bid at a FundIt event. The competing societies all give a two-minute presentation on their respective proposals, and based on those presentation, each society must vote on who they believe deserves funding. The ones with the most votes get their bids (or a partial part of their bid), and everyone else goes home empty-handed.

Even those who are unfamiliar with the FundIt system can probably see why the process has glaring issues. Firstly, the people who decide whether or not your society deserves funding is not an independent SU committee, but other societies you are competing against. If this sounds illogical and rife with conflicting interests, that’s because it is.

Why do completely unrelated societies have any right to determine what constitutes a ‘good’ bid, especially since their decision is based on a rushed two-minute presentation? This is nowhere near enough time to communicate what a society does, or why it requires funding, and the purpose and efficacy of its projects.

Another disturbing aspect of FundIt is that societies must present the balances in their bank accounts during the event. Supposedly, this is meant to give transparency to the financial health of respective societies, but the numbers presented are incredibly misleading.

For example, larger societies may host huge events that require them to have adequate funds in their accounts at certain times of the year. The high balance in their bank account doesn’t mean that they do not need money for other projects they are organising. Another situation is that a new committee could inherit debt from previous years. This doesn’t mean the people in the society currently are financially irresponsible.

Therefore, the metric upon which societies vote are themselves distorted. They are based on misleading numbers and an inadequate amount of information. There is a narrow scope of bids which will be successful; flashy projects that can bedazzle an audience in two minutes.

Even after ignoring all these criticisms, anyone would be able to see that there are distorted strategies to bidding successfully. Just form a voting bloc with other societies, and agree to vote for each other’s bids. This leaves newly formed societies, or societies without nepotistic links, out in the cold.

The University of Manchester is an exception in how it allocates student funding. Most SUs across UK universities such as Sheffield, Durham, and Birmingham all have independent committees which review proposals and conduct measured assessments.

In contrast, FundIt removes the burden of allocating resources from SU representatives to random students who all apply for financial help. The equivalent would be if all the students who apply for financial aid are forced to review each other’s applications rather than a university administration office.

FundIt is no less than the abandonment of student societies that form an integral part of vibrant campus life.

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