New Ferst rental process unfolds

On Aug. 25 and Sept. 3, respectively, the Undergraduate House of Representatives (UHR) and the Graduate Student Senate (GSS) unanimously passed a joint allocation bill to pay $30,000 to the Ferst Center in exchange for allowing any and all chartered student organizations to use the event space as they wish without having to search for funding.

The money was taken from the Student Activity Fund.

This bill, which was a part of Picon’s platform, laid out how the new arrangement would work.

“A GT recognized student organization contacts the Ferst Center about using their facilities for an event with at least 30 days prior notice. Assuming the Ferst Center is available at the date and time, they will contact the head of the Student Organization Finance Office (SOFO) accountant to verify the organization’s standing and to ensure that any services they are requesting align with SGA policy. The head SOFO accountant will verify this information and advise the Ferst Center to provide or deny any or all of the requested services,” according to the policies of the bill.

Previously, in order to use the Ferst Center, student organizations had a Student Government Association (SGA) representative author a bill asking for funding to reserve the Ferst Center, which required a fee.

“Student organizations had to put in a bill which [could] take at least two weeks, sometimes three, to get through, and ask us for the money. They would then go on to give that money to the Ferst Center which already had to have been reserved,” said Nicholas Picon, Undergraduate Student Body President.

After bills were put in to SGA and passed, the money would be directly transferred over to the Ferst Center so that necessary things could be paid for per their policies.

A similar change by SGA had been in place about two years ago, where the Ferst Center would charge a discounted rate to SGA, which SGA would pick up in a lump sum at the end of the year. Student organizations would still need to submit appropriation bills to SGA in order to get approved for reserving the Ferst Center.

Historically, the SGA President would negotiate a rental rate each year. From fiscal year 2009, that flat rate amounted to a lump sum of $22,000 with additional expenses incurred for first-time events. In fiscal year 2010, that sum increased to $25,000. Last year without the flat sum, however, SGA paid $50,874 in Ferst Center Rental Expenses and $33,182 the year before that, according to financial statements from SOFO.

The $17,692 increase in money spent on Ferst Center Rental Expenses comes mainly from the increase in student organizations utilizing the space available in the Ferst Center. This flat rate, supported by all parties involved, is an increase in the previous rate used and will save money from the student activity fund compared to comparison previous years.

“The main reason I wanted to bring [the flat rate] back is because I think it will open the Ferst Center for smaller organizations… we thought it was a good way to make that on-campus venue just like reserving any other room [on campus],” Picon said.

SGA, however, does not cover all costs that come with holding an event in the Ferst Center. Rather, they cover charges associated with technical, labor and rental costs at the venue for open dates. Those costs that are beyond that, such as ticketing, food, travel and props are not covered by the flat rate.

“As SGA, we’re here to support student organizations, but we like to see events moving towards a self sustaining nature,” Picon said.

Overall this bill is set to streamline the process which student organizations go through in making reservations in the Ferst Center by taking out the middleman of this process.

SGA hopes that everything will be set in motion by next week so that student organizations can begin utilizing this aggrement with the Ferst Center as soon as possible.