When Caroline Savello ’09 started to plan the launch of a new online magazine this fall, she needed funding to back her project. The Yale College Council has a body specifically designed for supporting projects like Savello’s — the Undergraduate Organization Funding Committee.
But Savello did not turn to the UOFC, mainly because of its reputedly difficult application process for funding, she said. Instead, she applied for a Sudler Fund grant — popular for its leniency in doling out dollars to arts projects — and received enough money to jump-start her publication, The Shift.
While campus tour guides talk up the University’s wide-ranging resources for starting new organizations, several students said their attempts this semester to register new groups and get funding have met with considerable difficulty, both in the prerequisite registration with the Yale College Dean’s Office and in the UOFC application process. But the Dean’s Office attributed problems to students’ disregard for the application procedures, while the UOFC said they are ready and willing to dispense funds — including $5,000 in a funding competition next month.
Step one: Registration
Tiffany Pham ’08, who handles finances for three student organizations, said her experience with the funding process this fall has been a struggle. As business manager for the student-run Misfit Magazine, Pham said her group waited for months this semester for funding as it completed the Dean’s Office registration requirements. The magazine received their first $300 on Monday, Nov. 13, she said.
Before an organization can apply for UOFC funding, it must register with the Dean’s Office, a process that requires the submission and approval of a constitution and a set of bylaws. In this process, Pham said, the Dean’s Office was unresponsive.
“We first had around two months of trouble registering,” Pham said. “We continuously contacted the Dean’s Office, but they were a little, for some reason, slow in helping us.”
Sarah Barenbaum ’08, co-president of AEPhi, a new Jewish sorority, said her organization has yet to receive approval from the Dean’s Office despite a semester’s worth of effort.
“It’s incredibly hard to get your organization recognized,” Barenbaum said. “It’s a very time-consuming process, and it’s very difficult to get through the system.”
Barenbaum said Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Edgar Letriz, who heads the club registration process, rejected their application over concerns about AEPhi’s constitution and bylaws but never made it entirely clear to the group what the problems were.
“They tell us, if we re-write [our constitution] … then we’ll get approved,” she said. “It’s just that this process is going to take us through at least February.”
In the meantime, Barenbaum said, the sorority has been able to survive based on membership dues. But for organizations that do not charge its members fees, the situation would be more dire, she said. If AEPhi does receive University approval, the sorority will apply for UOFC funding, Barenbaum said, but that process will present another set of hurdles to clear.
Letriz said organizations only incur delays if they fail to follow instructions properly when registering or re-registering at the start of each academic year. For organizations that carefully abide by the office’s bylines, the approval process — which is tracked by a time-stamped system online that shows the exact status of an application — should go without a hitch, he said. Of the 283 organizations that submitted complete applications this fall, 92 percent have already been approved, according to registration records.
“The reason why there are so many delays is, regardless of how many times our office has made it clear to the undergraduate organizations of what they need to do … the presidents just don’t bother,” Letriz said.
In order to be officially recognized, a group must have five student officers agree to take responsibility for the organization. Letriz said the process often slows when students fail to respond to an automated e-mail asking them confirm their officer status, while in the meantime, presidents assume the Dean’s Office is just dragging its feet. One hundred student groups that submitted applications this fall have yet to be reviewed by the Office of Student Affairs because their officers did not complete this necessary online confirmation, he said.
While some students said the registration process can last for weeks or months, most applications submitted properly this semester were approved within two to three business days, according to Office of Student Affairs records.
Florence Kwo ’09, president of STARS — an Asian-American interest group — said she plans to register her group next semester and does not anticipate that the registration process will be a problem.
“I heard that it was relatively easy and that [the Dean’s Office is] always open to new organizations,” she said.
Step two: Show me the money
After new groups are registered, leaders must obtain a tax identification number, open a bank account for their organization, register with the YaleStation Web site and meet UOFC members for an interview — all before they can submit a UOFC application.
While The Shift received Sudler funding, which is administered by residential college masters and requires a one-page application, Savello said the magazine staff decided this week to seek additional funding from the UOFC. But compared to the Sudler application, the registration and UOFC requirements seem cumbersome.
“It’s more tedium than anything, probably,” Savello said. “It seems to me a lot of effort wasted pre-application.”
Even after completing the application process, some groups are rejected by the UOFC. Pham — who also serves as the director of finance for the Yale Herald and the treasurer for the Asian American Students Alliance — said that while the Herald has always enjoyed a problem-free relationship with the UOFC, AASA encountered difficulty when its funding application was rejected earlier this fall.
“That was very, very odd, and everyone was very surprised,” she said. “It’s very known that we need the money.”
While Pham said the UOFC representative with whom she worked was very accommodating and helped AASA get a second application accepted this semester, students new to the funding process might be intimidated.
“It must be a little difficult if you have never encountered it before — the entire process of registering and taxes,” she said.
While some students said the funding process could be improved, UOFC chair Hassan Siddiq ’08 said his committee is willing to fund an array of events and organizations on campus — as long as students demonstrate their need and take the time to follow procedures.
This semester, the UOFC is sponsoring their first-ever fall funding competition, in which registered student organizations can band together and win $5,000 to throw a large-scale event for Yale students. Applications for the competition are due Dec. 2, and the proposed event must be planned for the beginning of the second semester, preferably January or February.
In addition to the contest, the UOFC will allocate about $125,000 this academic year, Siddiq said. The UOFC approved 94 of the 101 applications they have received so far this semester, he said.
Siddiq said that if groups are rejected, they may re-apply in the same semester.
While some students said the application process is inconvenient and complicated, Siddiq said the completely paperless process has proved efficient. Aside from a formal online form, the pre-application steps are not time-consuming, he said.
Whether they said the Dean’s Office, the UOFC or individual student groups are responsible for application delays, students agreed that securing funding is a key component in the functioning of any student organization.
Savello said The Shift, which plans to launch a Web site later this month, will apply for UOFC funding next semester, and the publication’s future may depend on it.
“I think it would be a blow to our sustainability if we don’t get the money,” she said.