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USG approves funding for student orgs

By Jackie Wattles
On February 14, 2013

  • USG Senators vote on funding for six on-campus organizations in a nearly four-hour meeting last night. SANTIAGO PELAEZ/The Daily Campus

Amid confusion, misunderstandings and a few lengthy debates, the Undergraduate Student Government Senate voted to approve $24,677.32 in funding for six on-campus organizations Wednesday night.

Wednesday's Senate meeting, which proved to be a nearly four-hour event, marked the first time a new funding process has been put into practice. The new system requires senators to vote on bills that allocate money from the "emergency fund," which currently holds $47,000, to Tier II organizations at UConn that did not receive funding in the regular funding process last semester.

The new funding process caused frustration among the senators. In the first vote, to grant a cultural dance group funding to compete in a dance competition this semester, nine senators abstained from voting when they believed they were voting "no."

The organization, Husky Bhangra, requested over $8,000 to get to the competition. Most of the senators did not realize they voted on funding the full amount. Since the organization is not "accessible to the entire student population," had the funding been applied for under the normal funding cycle, the group would have received roughly 66 to 75 percent of the full amount.

The senators took a 10-minute recess to sort out the confusion and returned to amend the legislation. In the end, the bill was amended to allocate $4,981.20 to Husky Bhungra, per recommendation of the funding board.

UConn Voices of Freedom, a gospel choir, was allocated $7,200 of the requested $12,000 in order to participate in a talent showcase tour along the East Coast that the group has completed in the past.

Brittney Robinson, the COO of Voices of Freedom and a 4th-semester business major, said the choir has done the trip annually but was denied funding for it this year and last year.

The $7,200 is about half of the roughly $14,900 the club will need to complete their trip. The group initially requested $12,000, which they were led to believe was the maximum they were allowed to request, although technically the group could have requested the full $14,900. Robinson was enraged.

After extensive debate, women's club ice hockey was allocated $4,301.25 to pay for practice time at the on-campus rink that they failed to pay for last semester. USG did not provide the funds to the club team last semester due to a "miscommunication" during the spring 2012 semester.

Student body Vice President Jigish Patel said he disagreed with the decision to allocate funds to a group that already spent the money.

"It sets a precedent that groups can spend money and then come back and call it an emergency and expect to get the full funds," Patel said.

The meeting was hardly business as usual. Senator Parth Rana said that he was uncomfortable with the new system and felt that USG was straying from its duties.

"This isn't the way we normally conduct business," Rana said. "It's not our job to provide funds in retrospect."

The unease amongst senators was clear. A few senators spoke in defense of the new funding process, which by the end of the meeting, was becoming increasingly unpopular amongst legislators and the Tier II organizations alike.

"The previous funding system was broken," said Senator Alice Lowe. "We can't keep looking to how that system worked and calling it how 'we normally do things.' We changed it for a reason."

But Patel said he was disappointed with how the meeting went, and believes that more changes will need to be made.
"Our job is to be fair and consistent, and in that sense I think today was a failure," Patel said.

Funding board chair John Giardina presented a basic outline for reforms to the funding process that the Senate plans to discuss at the next formal meeting in two weeks.

Other on-campus organizations that received funding include UConn's American Pharmacists Association, which was allocated $2,900 so the members can attend a conference in California, while women's club basketball received $4,000 to hire a coach. UConn Rock Ensemble, a musical group, also received $1,294.87 for supplies that they did not receive because their request was misplaced by USG last semester. 

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