Analysis: COVID-19’s impact on ASLMU’s budget

Monday, November 16, 2020

Graphic: Raven Yamamoto

Analysis: COVID-19’s impact on ASLMU’s budget

By Christina Martinez

In mid-October, ASLMU released its yearly budget as per usual to remain transparent with the LMU student body but this year, there were glaring changes due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the academic year.

For the 2020-21 academic year, ASLMU was granted $500,000, roughly a 23.5% decrease from last year’s budget of $654,000.

ASLMU Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Isabella Ramin, the member of ASLMU’s Leadership Team in charge of creating and monitoring the governing body’s financial plans, was tasked with adapting to the significant reduction in funds.

“At first, we were a little nervous because it was a $154,000 decrease,” said Ramin. “But we were working, allocating, and thinking about the budget throughout the whole summer. I feel like the way that it has been allocated now is good.”

The effects of COVID-19 and LMU’s state of virtual learning have affected the breakdown of this year’s budget in several ways. Here are some of AGENCY’s most notable findings.

Investments and notable cuts

Ramin says that her overall goal was to keep the percentages of this year’s allocations roughly the same as they were in last year’s budget, prioritizing funding for student programming. She also doubled the funding for ASLMU Initiatives, which allows ASLMU members to author resolutions, such as the recent resolution that called LMU to make future Election Days as academic holidays.

Ramin says that ASLMU President Jack Palen and Vice President Elsie Mares “ran on a campaign wanting to prioritize initiatives that benefit the students,” and that through prioritizing student programming, ASLMU “ still wanted to foster community and provide events that help new and continuing students feel the sense of the LMU community.”

Though most of ASLMU’s investments remained intact, there were a handful of divestments. The ASLMU Election Committee’s voting system budget, the New York Times (NYT) subscription that made NYT free to all LMU students, and the Wellness Wednesdays Farmer’s Market were completely cut. saving ASLMU $26,500. Certain initiatives and programs received slight budget cuts, such as First Amendment Week and LMU’s holiday traditions, the latter of which cannot be planned due to the pandemic and a closed campus.


Yearly salaries for the members of ASLMU’s Leadership Team remained largely the same, except for the ASLMU President. According to the new budget, the ASLMU President is traditionally paid a stipend of $2,000 for their work in the summer, but current ASLMU President Jack Palen was not compensated this year. This leaves Palen eligible for a total salary of $8,000 for his term, instead of his predecessors’ salary of $10,000.

President Palen says the ASLMU President regularly begins work during the summer to plan for the upcoming semester and to prepare training for ASLMU’s members. Although he was still eligible for the stipend, he chose to reject it.

“I thought the funds would have been of better use elsewhere in the budget,” said Palen. “While that work still filled my summer, I found the stipend was unnecessary.”

Other salaries have been cut in half. The positions of Elections Chair, Photographer, and Videographer have only been allocated $1,000 instead of $2,000 in the 2019-2020 academic year. The only position that received a raise is the Speaker of the Senate, which was an unpaid position until 2019. The salary of the Speaker of the Senate increased from the initial stipend of $2,000 to $3,000.

Student Activity Fee Allocation Board (SAFAB)

One of the largest concerns for this year was the allocation of funds for the Student Activity Fee Allocation Board (SAFAB) that provides financial assistance for registered student organizations (RSOs) that apply for it. SAFAB funding is usually applied for and exhausted by mid-semester due to its high demand.

The SAFAB reserve is always 20-30% of ASLMU’s budget. According to the current budget report, ASLMU has allocated $110,000 to SAFAB, or 22% of its budget. This is a 26% decrease from the $150,000 that was available to RSO’s in the 2019-20 academic year.

While Ramin prioritized SAFAB in this year's budget, she has observed that the demand for it is significantly lower than it had been last year when she served as the assistant to the previous CFO. By the midpoint of the Fall 2019 semester, SAFAB had run out of funding. This year, only half of the funds have been applied for.

“$44,000 is available this fall, and only $21,000 has been applied for,” said Ramin. “I would definitely say that engagement with SAFAB funding has gone down, but whatever is left over [from] this semester will be available next semester.”

Spring semester plans

According to Ramin, the budget was finalized when there were plans to hold certain events in-person in Spring 2021. Annual spring events such as the Spring Concert and LMU Day have been allocated funds similar to last year. There is also a distinction between “Fall Virtual Programming” and “Spring Programming.”

Ramin says that the current budget allocations will likely be altered. The budget was planned and approved by the ASLMU Senate under the assumption LMU would be able to reopen campus and allow in-person programming in the spring. If the budget needs reallocation, a new budget plan will be created and proposed to the ASLMU Senate for approval.

“Obviously, completely normal is not going to be possible in the spring,” said Ramin. “[The Leadership Team] is working to reallocate and readjust in response to whatever LMU has planned for next semester in terms of in-person or virtual.”

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