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Groups report mixed feelings toward funding process

By Kimberly Young

May. 15, 2007 9:41 pm

The Undergraduate Students Association Council doled out approximately $500,000 of this year’s $2.86 million budget to student groups ““ an amount that some clubs say was not enough.

This money funded events, office supplies or even personal payments to officers of clubs, said Michael Miller, chair of the Finance Committee.

Many groups have found ways to get around certain monetary constraints, such as using stipends for officers ““ and though some say stipends are an important way for student group officers to be rewarded for the work they do, others believe students should not be getting paid for such activities.

While certain student groups said they were happy with the money they received this year, some were dissatisfied. Miller said that because so many groups applied this year, groups got less money than last year, but this increase in the number of clubs funded produced more diverse programs on campus.

Within USAC, there are three main funding-allocation groups that student groups can turn to for money.

The Student Organizations Operational Fund gives out about $150,000 once a year. This is money for operations, advertising, office supplies and stipends, and cannot be used for socially related items such as food, T-shirts or items for specific programs, Miller said.

Another funding source is the Undergraduate Students Association Board of Directors Programming Fund, which gives out about $250,000 twice a year. It funds programs student groups want to hold on campus. Other funding provided by USAC comes in the form of Contingency Programming, which allows groups to apply anytime during the year and gives out about $130,000 for the entire year.

“It’s impossible to know how much people will request (throughout the year),” Miller said.

Though Miller said he tried to make the application process as fair and equal as possible, some student groups said they are getting less money this year and are looking for ways to get that missing money. Therefore, some student groups have begun applying for funding through stipends to put back into the club.

Some of these group leaders said they need money to pay for costs that USAC will not fund and have begun applying for stipends for officers, which some groups use instead to pay for additional costs within the organization. Miller said after officers receive a stipend, he or she can spend the money however they want.

Patrick Aghajanian, president of ENIGMA and a fourth-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, received a $350 stipend this year. He said that rather than keeping the money, he plans to spend it on things he would normally not be able to buy for the club, such as T-shirts and prizes for a tournament. He said that if an officers’ responsibilities take the same amount of time a job would, then they are justified in applying and receiving a stipend.

“If people are putting a lot of time into their club then they don’t have time for a job, so then it would be OK for them to get stipends,” he said.

But some students said they do not think student fees should be used to fund officer stipends.

“I didn’t know (stipends) existed,” Michelle Farley, a fourth-year mathematics student, said. “I don’t think it’s fair to fund officers because then it is more like a job.”

Leeron Morad, president of Bruins for Israel, brought up another issue he sees with stipends.

“We believe that money from student-programming resources should go to programs and not to stipends for an organization’s leaders,” Morad said.

One reason some clubs leaders do not apply for stipends is because they believe their services should be voluntary.

“We don’t apply for stipends because we believe that being an officer should be on a volunteer basis,” said Camille Pacis, co-program director of the Asian Pacific Health Corps.

Shauna Peterson, treasurer of Bruin Republicans, said her club does not have stipends and would only use them to donate back to the club.

Others, such as Scott Timpe, president of the Zeta Psi fraternity, use stipends to pay for programming and other expenses during the summer, when other funds would normally expire.

Timpe said that at the end of the year, the money you have not used yet is taken away, and it is common for clubs to get stipends to pay for summer expenses.

Miller said that while he believes students should serve as officers for free, he realizes their workload could add up to 40 hours a week, and USAC has said they should be able to get stipends. He said if students are going to use stipends for programing funds he would rather just take that money and put it into the programming account, because then students are not losing money through taxes.

Other groups said they choose not to use stipends, but that they are struggling with the funds they have.

“External funding outside of UCLA is very low and very hard to get, so internal funding (through USAC) is very important. The trend in the past years is that funds have slowly been decreasing,” Anglie Taneja, secretary of the Indian Student Union, said.

Taneja said the money they received this year, close to $8,000, is not enough to pay for their spring culture show ““ just renting Royce Hall costs $20,000. Other groups said they use outside money when USAC funding is not enough.

“We typically don’t get all the money we ask for,” Navid Pour-Ghasemi, treasurer of Bruin Democrats, said. He said though they depend on USAC for a lot of funding, they also hold fundraisers.

Miller said it was his goal to fund all the groups that applied, though some do not receive money because they fail to provide the necessary documents.

The distribution of funding is based on the numerical score assigned to the application. The groups with the best scores get the most money. Scores are given for areas such as description of program, statement of need, documentation, and goals and objectives, according to the USAC Web site.

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