Religious groups funded by ASUA

By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 30, 2005

ASUA gave out more than $2,000 to the Priority College Ministry last week, saying although they cannot support an actual religious organization, they support religious events on campus as long as there is a substantial amount of student interest.

Erin Hertzog, Arizona Students of the University of Arizona executive vice president, said ASUA's aim is to help support student interest on campus, and they want to financially support events rather than the clubs or organizations themselves.

ASUA approved the allotment of more than $2,300 at last week's senate meeting to an event sponsored by the Priority College Ministry, which is a part of the First Southern Baptist Church of Tucson.

Hertzog said they have funded religious events before, including ones held by the Hillel Foundation, Campus Crusade for Christ and the Asian Bible Fellowship.

"As long as there is student interest we usually support it," she said.

The College Ministry said more than 600 students had already shown interest in coming to the event during their presentation, which was enough for the ASUA senate to OK allocating the large sum to the religious organization after more than 30 minutes of mulling the matter over.

"We feel if an event is open for everyone on campus to attend, then why not fund it," Hertzog said. "It's not our job to judge something."

The 10 ASUA senators approved funding half of the lighting and sound costs for the event in the Student Union Memorial Center South Ballroom for later next month.

Hertzog said the partial funding for the event was completely appropriate in trying to get the best deals for both ASUA and the Priority College Ministry.

ASUA senators are handling the funding process of clubs until the appropriations board takes over for the remainder of the year starting Sept. 12. Right now, the appropriations board is being set up, and the senate is taking on a role they aren't accustomed to, Hertzog said.

After the appropriations board, which comprises seven members, determines whether a club deserves the funding they've requested. The senate then has the final approval in the matter. At least four members of the board must be in agreement to pass the funding of an event, Hertzog said.

ASUA Sen. Ryan Erickson said he supports both clubs and students on campus and tries not to discriminate between either based on what the club hopes to accomplish.

Erickson, who was one of the only senators to speak out against supporting the event, said as a senator he tries to keep clubs and religion on campus a separate issue.

Erickson said he ultimately agreed to fund the event even though he did not agree with the club's position because it would've been unfair to not allocate them funds if the College Ministry couldn't get it elsewhere.

Erickson said the club had done enough research in asking for the appropriate funding and were prepared to answer any question relating to their request.

"We try to go with the philosophy of partially funding more clubs on campus and shying away from fully funding the same clubs and people on campus who always come in," Erickson said. "If you rely on one source for funding, then you're not going to get as much as you could've from other sources."

Kim Rudd, a junior majoring in French, said if the event is on campus and anyone can come, then giving money to religious events isn't a big deal to her. She said, however, the events open-door event policy shouldn't try to impose or coerce beliefs on other students, but rather provide information and entertain students.

"This is a university, not an elementary school, and students should be exposed to different religions and see how their views differ," Rudd said.

Jon Watson, an undeclared freshman, said he supports ASUA funding any club on campus even if they carry a religious undertone.

"These groups should be able to have some financial existence just as any other clubs would get," Watson said. "We can't just segregate the church group from everyone else. It's good to help out campus groups no matter the aim."