Funding scarce for student organizations

This fall, the Undergraduate Organizations Committee has had to turn down more funding requests from leaders of student organizations than ever before.

The UOC distributes funding to registered student organizations, enabling them to plan events and activities. All registered student organizations are eligible to apply for up to $600 each semester, and new groups are eligible to apply for $300. But Ben Ackerman ’16, chair of the UOC, said there is not enough funding to accept many groups’ applications this semester. Though the UOC had $205,000 to distribute this year, student groups have already requested over $350,000 from the UOC, he said.

The money distributed to groups through the UOC comes from the Yale College Dean’s Office, the President’s Office and the annual $75 Student Activities Fee charged to students’ accounts.

John Meeske, associate dean for student organizations and physical resources, attributed the shortage of funding to steady growth in the number of undergraduate student organizations. Over the past four years, Meeske said the number of student groups has nearly doubled — from approximately 300 to nearly 600.

“The funding has increased a bit, but not very much — certainly not in proportion to the growth of student organizations,” Meeske said.

However, the number of registered student groups has recently plummeted, as nearly 300 groups failed to reregister or attend mandatory leadership workshops by the Oct. 31 deadline.

Meeske said the recent drop in the number of registered student groups may help alleviate the stresses on UOC funding, while Ackerman said that the new registration numbers will not dramatically affect funding because many groups are expected to register anew in the spring. Still, as new organizations, these groups will only be eligible to apply for $300 per semester rather than $600.

Limiting the number of organizations eligible for UOC grants is “not the solution we seek to the fiscal troubles organizations face,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman said student leaders have been understanding about the UOC’s financial situation. Still, he said that many rejected applicants have expressed frustration at what they see as negligence on the administration’s part. Without funding, many student groups are suffering, he said.

Though Charlotte Wang ’16, treasurer of the Vietnamese Student Association, had applied successfully for UOC funding before, she said her application this semester for one of the group’s biggest events — a 25th anniversary banquet — was rejected.

Wang said she understands the UOC’s predicament but wishes that the committee had been more transparent with student groups about its financial state and how funding decisions are made.

“If I had known that they would run out of funding before the last application cycle, I would have planned ahead and applied earlier to avoid a crisis in the end,” Wang said.

Ackerman and Meeske said they will continue working together throughout the year to remodel the student organization funding system in an effort to resolve this issue. Meeske said the problem of student group funding will be a priority item on the agenda for meetings of the Undergraduate Organizations standing committee, which includes Meeske, Ackerman and other administrators.

Ackerman said one way to increase funding would be to alter the annual Student Activities Fee, which is currently $75. Yale College Dean Mary Miller rejected a proposal containing this recommendation earlier this year, though Ackerman said the UOC has since secured the support of a top-level University officer who may help revive the effort.

To resolve the larger structural issues of student funding, Ackerman said the Yale College Council will work with the administration to conduct a review of student organizations. The UOC also hopes to review guidelines for grant applications and publish statistics on grant requests to give students a better idea of the UOC’s capabilities, he said.

The last round of UOC funding applications this semester were due Nov. 8.

Correction: Nov. 21

A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that Ben Ackerman ’16 said that making the Student Activities Fee mandatory is one way to increase funding by the Undergraduate Organizations Committee. In fact, he had said that altering the Student Activities Fee would allow student organizations to receive more funding.

Comments