Note: this article does not intend to endorse or criticize any of the student organizations that are mentioned in text or graphic. The following is simply an analysis based on public data provided by Tufts Community Union.It’s the time of the season… when Tufts student clubs scramble for the TCU allocation stamp on their excel budget sheets for the coming year.Remember that time last year when TCU was cutting travel expenses from club funding? Around $65,000 of supplementary TCU funds was cut because it was deemed “not sustainable anymore”. Despite hard times, last year TCU still managed to allocate more than a $1 million to fund 172 student organizations across councils, from Concert Board to Mock Trial to BEATs. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers behind Tufts Community Union allocations last year (all scraped and mined from the public TCU web site, which now has the 2016 budgets):Of all the sectors, the service, performance, and cultural councils take in the most member clubs, which is surely not surprising at Tufts. The good news is that this likely means that most TCU funded clubs are using their money to give back to the community in some manner of ‘service’.The bad news is this: this same year, TCU spent more than a tenth of a million dollars on food expenses. To put this in a relevant context, the median domestic salary of a janitor is $26,368. With the money that Tufts clubs spend on food alone, the university could keep 5 more janitors on staff for the entire year. This is not to suggest food is not an important part of a club’s budget. Food is naturally a meaningful feature for cultural events and obviously a strong incentive for student attendance. But how much money could we all save if clubs independently charged a student cover for food at such events? Or perhaps if food is really a spotlight, clubs could account that into their primary expenses.In this division of the TCU fund pie, we come to the main question: who really gets the most? Essentially, what clubs are the most resourceful and therefore the most powerful? The idea of power here is a chalked up pseudo-economic idea that we’ll measure by affluence – how much money a club can spend towards its mission – and followership – a proxy for how much student influence and attendance a club draws. We’ll count a club’s followership by the number of its social media followers (again, probably a good indicator of how well its events are publicized and attended).There is, in fact, some correlation between these two things:Next to Senior Class Council and Concert Board getting more than a third of all TCU club funds, one trend here is that clubs that get the most money, often have the least followership. We have to be careful to not assume a dependent relationship – this could largely be because programming committees are revamped every year and have to accrue Facebook followers anew.However, the more interesting trend is that some clubs don’t need a budget to get a big student following for their cause . Consider SJP and Tufts Labor Coalition on the far right, cashing in a meager fraction of Concert Board’s budget. Yet, by social media counts, they are the most popular clubs at Tufts University.So clearly, power is finely weighted between affluence and followership. While the recipients of the biggest pie slices inevitably have the most power in shaping Tufts campus life, less ‘affluent’ clubs with significant grassroots followerships arguably have an even higher platform to reach the student body. Overall, here’s what we think is a fair index weighing both of these factors to consider 10 of the highest scoring clubs from above: As a final note, these ranking experiments are by no means trying to quantify that clubs are better than others. At most this analysis offers a change in perspective. If you’re a student, maybe you’ll think differently about where your student activities fee goes and who you subscribe to on social media. If you’re a club leader, maybe you’ll think about how you can carefully cover all your expenses in a time when institutional frugality is costing livelihoods. And if you’re on TCU, maybe you’ll think about the distribution of power, not just food and event money, to student organizations during budget allocation.
This post was originally published on our “Tufts Trends” blog on September 18, 2015.