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The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian




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Associated Students introduces funding caps for campus organizations

Associated+Students+introduces+funding+caps+for+campus+organizations
Allen Chen

Associated Students has instituted a funding maximum for campus organizations at $7,999 total for the 2023-24 school year and $999 total for Weeks 0 to 5 of Fall Quarter 2024.

Previously, campus organizations would apply for and receive funds on a first-come, first-serve basis and receive as much funding as they needed. Those who applied early on were more likely to receive the full amount they requested.

The new $999 cap for Weeks 0 to 5 begins Fall Quarter 2024. Large campus organizations will be especially negatively impacted by this change, according to some organization leaders. 

“Weeks 0 to 5 is the most busy time for student events of the year,” Deejays and Vinylphiles Club Production Manager Keanu Nazemi said. “Instead of the $18,000 that we requested for next Fall, we got $999 … That’s how bad it is. It’s not even a reduction; it’s a desecration, decimation, incineration – however you want to put it.”

Keyboard Club President Tamerlane Barak echoed the sentiment that allocating just $999 for Weeks 0 through 5 will be a blow to campus organizations. 

“There’s a complete cognitive misalignment, essentially, to think that it would ever be acceptable to take money away from the first five weeks of fall quarter,” Barak said. “It’s insane to me that during the beginning of the quarter, when everyone is interested, when everyone is looking for new groups to engage with [they did this].”

Upon first hearing the news, Barak had worried about how this would impact their organization specifically. 

“I was like … we’re actually doomed,” they said. “This was a conversation that happened very late … It was shocking.”

Nazemi felt similarly.

“Every org is in chaos mode. They don’t know where they’re getting their funding,” he said. “The new guidelines come from a place of complete and total misunderstanding and ignorance of how student orgs operate and how they use those funds.”

According to Associate Vice President of Student Organizations Cesar Orellana, the decision to cap funding at $999 for Weeks 0 to 5 Fall Quarter 2024 was meant to accelerate the approval process for campus organizations, since those requesting over $999 must go through the Student Organization Funding Advisory Board. 

“Still, student organizations are given the opportunity to appeal this funding maximum if their costs are not met by the $999 maximum,” Orellana said. 

Chief Financial Officer Asha Krishna explained that there will be a new process implemented called the funding maximum adjustment process, which would allow organizations to request over $7,000 for the year if they offer reasoning as to why they need those funds. They would need to create a presentation or outline and send it to the CFO, who would then bring it forward to the finance committee to be approved or denied. 

“The beauty of the system is the fact that it’s never existed before. And now I can actually look at the numbers and say, ‘hey, we have this much money allocated,’” Krishna said. “It’s a process that allows us to take a look at the grand scheme of things, take a look at all the organizations, and distribute this money a bit more equitably for everybody.”

Orellana wrote in an email to The UCSD Guardian that this appeals process would provide a more sustainable system that would allow A.S. to remain more objective in funding all student organizations. 

“Our appealable funding maximums were put in place with the best of intentions for our student organizations,” Orellana wrote. “To ensure larger student organizations / events with higher attendance are able to request their desired funding, we have implemented a process for them to request funding by expanding due process and involving our Senate in deciding student organization funding allocations. This would ensure that our processes are democratic and fiscally responsible.”

Nazemi criticized this new process of funding maximum adjustments as a burden to students who, he said, already have too much on their plates. 

“UCSD students are busy enough. We’re on the quarter system. God knows I have homework after this,” Nazemi said. “And now we’re getting solutions like, ‘oh, well you can apply for additional funding by coming to a Senate meeting.’”

Krishna stated that she and Orellana made the decision to instill the $7,000 funding cap to prevent running out of funds by Spring Quarter. This change, she explained, would also allow A.S. to track the amount allocated to campus organizations. 

“I didn’t think [the previous process] was sustainable,” she said. “These funding maximums kind of allow for us to track [funding], budget a little more, [and] have enough funds to go through the rest of the year.”

But Nazemi suggested that running out of funding by Spring Quarter makes sense and is not an adequate reason to instill caps. 

“That’s great if that’s what’s happening, because that tends to be when the school year ends and student org events go down,” he said.

Krishna further said that the pandemic was, in part, to blame for the implementation of funding maximums. Funding comes solely from the mandatory $87 student activity fees all undergraduate students must pay. However, not all of that portion goes to A.S. Still, during the pandemic there were less events, leading to a pool of unused activity fees for campus organizations. 

“Those few years of COVID…  in-person events didn’t happen, so a lot of those student activity fees would kind of pile up,” Krishna explained. “My immediate predecessor was able to have all of this money that kind of rolled over.”

Nazemi said that he was not satisfied by this explanation and felt that two years of online classes should mean that there is still extra funding rollover. 

“If … you get $5 a year and you don’t use it for two years, you have $10. But they’re basically saying we spent $10 in one year, when they should have just spent $5,” Nazemi said. “It just makes no sense.”

Krishna went on to state that inflation was another reason for the cap on funds. 

“Inflation has risen more. Everybody’s asking for a lot more money just in general,” she said. “Every single year you get more ideas, you want more money, but student activity fees will stay the same. So naturally money’s not limitless.”

Campus organizations have cited inflation as a reason to increase the level of funding allocated, not the opposite.

“[There are] increased levels of inflation and decreased levels of spending power and expecting us to somehow make more money while they completely out of nowhere decimate our budget — it’s insane,” Barak said.

Keanu agreed.

“It’s not like everything in the world costs the same as it did in 2019,” he said. “Prices for everything have gone up as funding has gone down, and we’ve created this choke point where just no events can happen.”

While A.S. President George Lo backed Krishna’s reasons for introducing a funding maximum, he also suggested that the catalyst for this change was something else entirely: miscommunication. The CFO and AVP did not have access to their work emails that were necessary to log into the so-called funding request portal, he explained. This meant they were unable to see how many funding requests had been submitted before the summer and thus unable to adequately calculate how much funding needed to be allocated. For this reason, $85,000 was allocated, the same amount as last year, without the rollover funding from the pandemic.

“So the allocation was an estimation based on last year’s summer budget … because they [weren’t] able to see how much student orgs actually requested and how many funding requests were there,” Lo explained. “And when they finally got it, that’s later into the summer, … they saw 198 requests, somewhere around that, and that people asked for more money than what we have … We [also] got more funding requests from last year.”

The change in the funding guide was a decision made by the CFO and AVP, with minimal, if any, involvement of Lo, according to all three. 

“It’s a measure taken by my CFO and AVP; they did not run that by me,” Lo said. “I would have said no.”

Yet Lo, as the face of A.S., has taken the brunt of the fall among students, who expressed their dissatisfaction with him on Reddit. 

“If you look at the thread,” Barak said, “you’ll see that George Lo actually comments. He’s voted down to oblivion, but he did comment on it saying he had nothing to do with the A.S. changes. Fair. Understood. Then why did you go and promise everybody everything’s going to be okay?”

Lo said that he was aware of his unpopularity in the wake of these decisions, even if it was out of his hands, especially because he ran on the prospect of increasing funds for student organizations. 

“It was not a decision by me, and the idea was not even run by me,” Lo said. “People assume that I was the person who made the cut, and then they assume that I’m going against my own platform, because I did run on increasing and streamlining student org funding.”

Krishna echoed the sentiment that Lo was not involved in the decision to cap funding. 

“He’s the face of our association … So it’s unfortunate that he has to take a lot of that heat,” she said. “But I wouldn’t say that he had a huge hand in that funding maximum decision … That would fall under my office … and Cesar’s office.”

In fact, the CFO said she was ready for some pushback from campus organizations over the funding changes. 

“My predecessor told me himself, he was like, ‘hey, money makes people emotional. Get ready, you know, you’re going to have a long year ahead of you.’ That’s fine. I mean, that’s what I anticipated with the role,” Krishna said. “Finances is a touchy topic for everybody sometimes.”

On the other hand, Nazemi shared his disappointment over applying early in an effort to receive all necessary funding only to receive reduced funding. Many campus organizations begin planning their fall and winter events at the end of Spring Quarter and over the summer.

“Rage is one thing, but I just feel tired,” Nazemi said. “I thought I was doing a good job by planning really far in advance … Our entire year was planned out over the summer … Now that all goes out the window, all of it, an entire summer’s worth of planning and coordinating goes out the window because of this.”

A.S. Chief Communications Officer Jonaiyshia McCadney shared that she acknowledged the concerns of campus organizations about their planned events for the year. This understanding led to the implementation of the appeals process to remedy the mishap.

“A lot of people are like, ‘oh, this was kind of sprung upon us kind of suddenly, and we already have planning done.’ Most boards told us that they have plenty done for pretty much the entire year. So this is kind of really short notice,” she said. “That’s why we’re kind of trying to backtrack at least and figure out how to meet them halfway and what the solution would be.”

On the topic of other funding options, McCadney spoke about campus organizations receiving funding from the seven college councils, which have active funding. She also spoke about cultural organizations receiving funding from the Vice Chancellor, who has her own Equity Diversity and Inclusion fund. 

“A lot of people aren’t really aware that they have their own set of funding for organizations. That could be actually quite a bit of money,” McCadney said. “Even if it might not be the most convenient option, there’s still a lot of other options, [so we are] trying to make sure we push those as well.” 

Orellana wrote in the aforementioned email that this change was to ensure equity among all campus organizations.

“We strongly believe that these changes ensure equity,” he wrote. “Equity ensures equal opportunity, and we would believe these systems we have put in place do, as well.” 

Barak does not feel these changes are equitable, however, and gave an example to clarify why.

“That word that [they] used so much, so many times – equity – it’s just absolutely, astronomically, you know, painful. Using the same comparison of financial aid: imagine everyone just got $5,000 for university, right? If I give $20,000 to somebody who is in poverty, [that] is going to go dramatically further …  than giving $20,000 to a millionaire,” Barak said. “It’s causing so much grief because people don’t understand that everyone needs different levels of helping hands.”

Keanu backed Barak’s statement.

“At the end of the day, you want it to be equitable while you’re removing the equity,” Keanu said. “Reducing [funding] and limiting it is not the answer.”

 

Editor’s Note: At 6:36pm on Oct. 30, this article was updated to correct quotes and dates.

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