VSO alcohol funding process under review

Finances for student groups have seen recent revisions, including the creation of a new account that could allow undergraduate groups to receive money for alcohol purchases and a streamlined funding process for events.

Effective Jan. 1, a new account was made available to fund alcohol for voluntary student organizations (VSOs) through general fees and special fees. While the account has been made available online for VSOs, both funding and reimbursement procedures must be put in place before undergraduate VSOs can utilize the account.

Angela Zhang ’16, appropriations committee chair for the Undergraduate Senate, said that a funding bill is currently being examined by the Risk Management Office, and if approved, would allow undergraduate VSOs to request funding for alcohol through the new account. Although the office’s approval isn’t necessary for the bill to be adopted, Zhang notes that all parties need to guarantee that the bill is compliant with Stanford policy and national law.

According to Ilya Mouzykantskii ’16, chair of student life for the Undergraduate Senate, the issue of allowing undergraduate VSOs to fund alcohol has been unfolding this past year through discussions between student senators, the Stanford Student Enterprises, and University officials mainly from Student Activities and Leadership, the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education and the Risk Management Office.

One major concern is that undergraduates under 21 would be funding alcohol, and the bill would be illegal, Zhang said.

As a result of this concern, the bill was modified to state that the percentage of funds that could go towards purchasing alcohol must be equal to or less than the percentage of funds paid by students 21 and older.

Mouzykantskii believes the bill can have significant benefits. He hopes that the new alcohol procedure will make alcohol consumption safer for everyone involved, minimize risk involved in alcohol-based transactions and promote the use of beer and wine as opposed to hard alcohol.

Although the funding bill is still transit, a reimbursement policy has been finalized and was implemented on Jan. 1. This newly created policy almost always requires VSO events to be registered and approved by the University in order to be eligible for alcohol reimbursement.   Stephen Trusheim ’13 M.S. ’13, assistant financial manager of the ASSU, notes that the University will generally approve any event where alcohol is a meaningful component but the focus is not simply on participants becoming intoxicated.

According to Trusheim, in the past it was generally assumed that the money undergraduates pay towards the ASSU (a part of every student’s bill) could not go to alcohol. However, as long as it is practiced within specific guidelines, the creation of this account is allowed.

“[The account] came from wanting to clarify how and when alcohol can be funded by the ASSU, and more correctly and specifically accounting for it in compliance with law and Stanford policy,” Trusheim said.

Along with the creation of an alcohol account, nine account categories for VSOs to request funding and reimbursements through general fees were condensed into a larger Event Services account.

Previously, groups could not combine funds from those nine separate account categories; for example, if a group had $200 in Equipment Rental and money in other areas, the group had to spend that $200 solely on Equipment Rental to be fully reimbursed.

Often these categories would have a confusing degree of overlap that would complicate the reimbursement process. By creating a new category that holds many related expenses, the Event Services account will encompass an event as opposed to individual aspects of the event, said Alex Kindel ’14, funding coordinator for SSE.

“It was a mutual decision between ASSU, SSE and financial officers,” Kindel said. “Everybody just realized that the way that the system was set-up wasn’t really meeting the needs of student groups.”

Contact Skylar Cohen at skylarc ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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