The Student Governing Board (SGB)
As the only governing board comprised of students from all four undergraduate schools, the Student Governing Board (SGB) represents political, religious, activist, and humanitarian groups on campus. Created to meet student demands for a self-governing student caucus during the ‘68 protests, the SGB has traditionally served as the guardian of free speech and of students’ rights on campus.
The most important thing to know about the SGB is that we only exist to represent and aid our groups. We seek to make our rules as simple and unrestrictive as possible and to always be available when our group members are in need. You can always contact your SGB Representative or the SGB E-board with any questions or requests for assistance.
The SGB E-Board consists of eleven students: a Chair, a Vice-Chair, a Treasurer, a Secretary, and seven Representatives, all elected by the 90 recognized SGB groups for one-year terms starting in the spring. All members of the SGB E-Board are active in SGB groups to ensure that they understand the needs and concerns of the community. The E-Board sets budgets for the groups, writes the guidelines, manages co-sponsorships, and is solely authorized to enforce rules for SGB groups. For more on our judicial policy, please visit the SGB web site.
The SGB Representatives are the primary advocates for the groups. Your representative should be the first person you contact for help with anything, from figuring out the best way to plan an event to disputing an administrative policy. For your representative to be most effective, you should copy him or her on all communications with the Columbia University administration and your advisers.
Every year the SGB has at least two Town Halls (attendance is mandatory for all groups) where we vote on the recognition of new groups, elect our new board, and discuss important issues affecting our community. Our community-building dinners bring together all categories of groups (activist, political, religious, and humanitarian) to facilitate networking and receive feedback from groups. We also hold large-scale events designed to bring the community together (for example, a forum on the relationship between religion and activism, politics, and humanitarianism).
Please visit the SGB web site to find a list of current reps and to which groups they are assigned.
These guidelines exist solely to help our larger community function best. If you have a compelling reason to request an exemption, speak with your SGB representative and we will do our best to work with you. If you do not receive an exemption, be sure to follow the stated guidelines as rule violations will be taken seriously.
If you are a newly recognized group and requesting funding, you will receive an allocation of $175.00 per semester for your first two semesters of activity. After that, you may request a full–sized budget.
If you are a new group and claim during your recognition process that you will not need funding, you will need to be re-recognized should you need funding at a later time.
Sometimes we do make mistakes such as giving you less money than you deserve or charging you for an overdraft that does not really exist. Sometimes you make mistakes such as not submitting a budget packet and as a result not getting a budget at all. If either of these happen, you may submit a budget appeal at the beginning of the school year to get your budget changed. You will have to fill out an application and present to the SGB E-Board, as you would with a cosponsorship. Please refer to the SGB web site for the application and the deadline for appealing.
Spending Your Allocation
When spending your allocation, always remember that we are a poor governing board and that we are all part of one community. If you overspend, your fellow groups have to pay for it out of their small budgets. If you underspend then precious political, activist, religious, and humanitarian dollars have gone to waste.
When you overspend, you will have to pay back a portion of your overdraft out of your budget the following year. Your debt will be calculated according to the following formula:
- The first $100.00 you overspend is forgiven. We understand it can be difficult to stay within the exact confines of your budget.
- You must pay back 75% of the next $100.00 you overspend.
- You must pay back 100% of any overspending past $200.00.
If you spend so much that you can not possibly repay the debt in a single year, we may have to set up a payment plan and garnish your group’s budget in future years. This is not beneficial to anyone so please try not to exceed your budget.
If you significantly underspend, you will receive a reduced budget the following year. You can not keep extra money for the following year. Unspent money is taken back by the SGB to help pay other groups’ debts. Underspending guidelines are easy:
- If you spend 80%-100% of your budget, we will show our appreciation by increasing your budget for next year as much as possible.
- If you spend 65%-79% of your budget, you will receive no increase for the next year.
- If you spend less than 65% of your budget, you risk losing recognition status and will receive a reduced budget in the next year.
It is especially important to be in touch with your SGB representative regarding your spending. If you know in advance that you will not be able to spend your whole budget this year we can take the money back for this year and you will receive a full budget the following year.
Co-sponsorships should be among the first things on your mind when you plan an event. It is a great way to help build a community and to receive additional funding. Just remember, co-sponsorship money is meant to be spent. If after an event you have unused co-sponsorship money left over, you must give it back. At the end of the year, unused co-sponsorship money is treated like unused budget money and is used to help cover other groups’ debts.
There are dozens of opportunities for co-sponsorships on campus including other student groups, departments, student councils, funds such as the Kraft Fund or the P&P, and the SGB of course. Talk to your SGB adviser or representative for assistance in applying for co-sponsorships.
To apply for an SGB co-sponsorship, you have to fill out an application and present your case to the SGB E-Board. Feel free to reach out to your SGB representative for tips on how to really impress us. If you get an SGB co-sponsorship, you have to acknowledge this when advertising for the event by putting our logo on all of your materials. Because the SGB represents all four undergraduate schools, flyers for SGB co-sponsored events must be held in either Lewisohn (home of GS student-life), the Barnard wall, Mudd, or Hamilton.
In past years, we have encouraged groups to request more in co-sponsorships from the Student Councils and less from us. This year, the Student Councils have included co-sponsorships in their initial allocation to SGB, and they would like to co-sponsor new events only. Therefore, the SGB should now be your main source of co-sponsorships. We encourage you to ask for more from us and less from the Student Councils. As your governing board, we would love to cover as much of your financial need as we can.
Please refer to our funding page for guidance on what we look at when allocating co-sponsorships to groups.
As would be expected, the rules for fundraising at Columbia are incredibly complicated. If you would like to raise money for your group from sources outside the University, talk to your SGB representative or adviser and they will help walk you through the system.
Because we are a poor governing board, we strongly encourage fundraising. Every dollar that you bring in is more money for politics, activism, religion, and humanitarianism on campus that we wish we could have given you in the first place. Groups that actively fundraise will likely be the groups with the best events. This means that if you fundraise a lot and spend it well, we will love you and increase your budget. However, we will only do this if you are spending the money that comes in. If you have $1,000 in raised money just sitting around, do not expect your budget to increase. If you are raising money over several years for one super-large event, make sure to be in touch with your SGB representative so we know about it and do not think you are simply hoarding cash.
Restrictions on Spending
We at SGB will never tell you how to spend your budget. We know you care about your groups and causes enough to use your own best judgment when making financial decisions. However, there are a few blanket restrictions that we have to make:
- No illegal purchases
- No spending on alcohol or alcohol related items
- No spending on t-shirts, tote bags, or any other durable goods meant to be given out to members
These rules also apply to money that you have raised from other sources. However, we are flexible with these rules (excluding the one regarding illegal purchases). If you think that an event with alcohol or t-shirts will serve the greater good of politics, activism, religion, and humanitarianism, talk to your SGB representative and you could be given an exemption.
Summer and Winter Break Spending
There can not be any programming over the summer or during winter break. Our programming is supposed to be for the whole community, and there is not much of a community around when school is out. You can spend money from your budget over these breaks if it is to help plan or prepare events that will happen when school is in session (e.g. buying stamps to send letters to prospective speakers over the summer). If you choose to spend money during breaks, however, you will have to pay out of pocket and be reimbursed when school starts again.
We encourage all groups to create a website. They are great for recruiting and spreading your message. There is no reason to spend any money on the web site since Columbia University will provide you with space and you should be able to find a web master from within your own ranks willing to work for free (i.e. Comp-Sci major looking to beef up his or her resume).
When planning a fundraising event for some charitable cause, make sure that you are going to raise more money than you spend. Otherwise, you are not actually raising money but simply giving SGB money to charity which is not allowed.
You can definitely spend your groups’ money on a speaker’s honorarium. But, for tax reasons, you ca not compensate them for travel or accommodations. Just lump everything into the speaker’s fee and you should be fine.
Other Rules and Questions
There are, of course, many other rules for you to contend with including University Rules, Student Affairs Rules, and Federal Laws. If you have any questions about those rules or if you would like further clarification of the SGB guidelines, reach out to your SGB representative, your OSGA adviser, or the SGB E-Board. We are all here to serve as a resource for you.