Unfair Funding?

Claire is the Finance Commissioner on her student government. She supervises the student government committee that distributes funds to clubs and campus organizations. Claire has been considering proposing a resolution to limit the amount of funding a single club can receive, and recently noticed that one particular club files a lot of funding requests and receives consistent approval. While the club makes good use of all the money it is allocated, other clubs with equal needs receive significantly less. Claire knows that Garret, the head of student government’s funding committee, is also the club’s president. Garret is an excellent member of student government. He helped streamline the funding process, dedicated his year to making better forms, and supported clubs with better how-to guides for the process.

Garret makes no effort to hide or minimize his participation in the his club, and Claire doesn’t believe he intentionally approves more proposals submitted by his club. When Claire speaks to Garret, it is obvious that he feels he is entirely neutral in the process. He even abstains from the vote when his own club’s proposals are raised. Still, Claire wonders if she should continue to allow his committee to approve requests for his club. The other members of the committee admire Garret, who is their leader, and are likely to trust any proposal submitted by his group, because it is associated with him. Since he helps craft proposals, they are already exceptional in comparison to submission by less experienced and knowledgeable clubs. Claire also considers putting a spending cap on individual clubs, but worries the constraint will limit creative ideas. It could also personally insult Garret, and she doesn’t want to derail his excellent work. Claire feels something must be done to make the system more fair, but she is unsure what, if anything, will work.

What would you do in Claire’s position? Do you think Garret’s committee can continue to approve his club’s proposals? Can Garret’s situation be called a conflict of interest? How does his position give the club an advantage? Can the club fairly benefit from the advantage, particularly if it is unintentional? Should upper-level members of student government be allowed to service in leadership roles for other student organizations or clubs?

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