By Tawfik Maudah
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Every year, nearly $1 million of student money is funneled to the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, and $85,000 of it is earmarked for the 500 clubs and organizations recognized by the university.
According to ASUA Executive Vice President Erin Hertzog, that money is carefully allocated according to strict guidelines. Before a club is legally eligible to receive any funding, it must complete a multi-part recognition process mandated by the state.
Because of the serious liability issues that could result from allocating funds in violation of the law, one might assume that the senate would exercise all due caution when deciding how to divvy up its budget. However, that's not always the case.
Last semester, for example, the senate granted the Bobcats Senior Honorary $8,500 -†a tenth of its entire budget - for Homecoming kickoff events.
The problem? According to Aaron Gubi, graduate assistant for student organizations at the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, the office responsible for recognizing clubs, Bobcats wasn't an official organization on the day the senate approved its funding. Nor was it official a month later when it spent the money. In fact, the honorary didn't complete the recognition process until last week.
Hertzog attributed the oversight to a sloppy job by club advocates responsible for verifying Bobcats' status. However, it would be wrong to place the blame squarely on administrative error. After all, Blake Buchanan, the president of Bobcats, is no stranger to the club-funding process. As a sophomore, he was an ASUA senator himself; as a junior, he served as an Arizona Students' Association director. In other words, he should have known better.
Of course, it would be unfair to put too much stock in a simple error. After all, Bobcats has successfully completed the recognition process and been given funding for Homecoming many years in a row. However, the slip-up is indicative of a funding process that is at times unthinking.
Case in point: ASUA claims that its primary concern when allocating funds is the impact a proposed event will have on the student body. Here, funding Homecoming events is obviously appropriate - Homecoming is the largest single event on campus each year, attracting thousands of alumni and students.
But just weeks after Bobcats was allocated a huge sum of money, another event, with near-equal student interest, was shortchanged.
Advocates for the solar energy campaign, which many senators claim to wholeheartedly support, requested $750 for a kickoff event in early October; they were given less than a third of that. As ASUA President Cade Bernsen explained during an emergency senate meeting Oct. 10 to discuss funding for the event, "(Energy Conservation and Lifestyles Initiative Partnering Students and their Environment) collected over 4,000 signatures of students that are in support of solar energy." Despite this remarkable public support, the senate refused a relatively minimal funding request for a kick-off event for a campaign to raise tens of thousands of dollars to install solar panels in a building on campus.
Granted, given the number of clubs on campus and the mountain of paperwork they generate, aberrations such as these might be expected. However, those entrusted with our money should spend more time examining proposals for large amounts of money in order to make sure that funding guidelines are being applied uniformly and fairly.
Sadly, the response of some ASUA officials to the Bobcats fiasco has been blasť. As Hertzog explained, "I am sure this has happened before; I know this for a fact." If that's the case, why have the recognition process at all? Error is to be expected in any system, but officials must do all they can to prevent it.
ASUA should use this opportunity to reevaluate the rules governing club funding to make sure their applications lines up with their intentions. After all, if reform is needed, what better time is there for it than election time?
Tawfik Maudah is a non-degree-seeking graduate student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.