Ways and Means committee revises funding guidelines

BY HOA NGUYEN '18

Most events hosted by student organizations will be available free of charge to the Mount Holyoke community starting next year. Some organizations will still accept donations or charge a fee to fundraise for non-MHC organizations.

The news was included in an email last week regarding changes in funding for student events, sent from the Ways and Means Committee to the authorized signers of student orgs. Director of Student Programs Alicia Erwin later forwarded the email to student org points of contact and SGA senators. Members from Ways and Means also delivered a presentation during Senate last Tuesday and discussed the new plan with students.

The Ways and Means Committee takes charge of allocating funds to approximately 130 organizations on campus. The committee works with part of the funds from the student activities fee, estimated at $300,000 every year, while the rest of the funds are directed to other campus necessities including funding the PVTA, cultural centers and security for events.

According to the Chair of Ways and Means Dimitra China ’16, after discussing with Student Programs and org treasurers, the committee found that there have been many issues and misconceptions about fundraising. “There is an expectation that for every event you should be charging students,” she said. “That is not what the fundraising requirement was meant to do.”

China said that in the past, each org would subsidize the cost of some of their events by fundraising because Ways and Means did not have access to endless amounts of funds. Given a certain budget, the committee had to make sure there would be a way to fund every event that happens on campus without running out of money. Because students already pay the student activity fees used to enhance their college experience, China said that “by asking them to pay for these events, it is like you are asking them to double pay to participate.”

One of the main problems caused by these old guidelines is that many orgs would fundraise more than they are required to, but Ways and Means does not have any authority over the fundraised money. This results in orgs having a surplus of money sitting in their account, which is not fully utilized. 

One of the chairs of the Asian Students Association Camille Gladieux ’18 talked about her org’s financial situation. “We are allocated a certain amount of money and we spend it all,” she said, “but we ended up earning it all back because of ticketing.” Not knowing what to do with the money, ASA recently hosted a free Lunar New Year celebration in early February and yielded a huge turnout.

Gladieux said that this change would affect the way student orgs plan events, especially during the initial period when the new guidelines take effect. “A lot of the process of the planning has to take into account of how many people end up coming,” she said. According to Gladieux, next year “orgs will have to come up with a system to get a headcount of people, [like] passing out free tickets.”

Attending the Senate meeting last Tuesday, Gladieux also saw that people were nervous about not being able to have funding or not having as much funding as they did before. “Once you have a precedent of doing something, people don’t exactly like change, which is funny because of our slogan,” she said.

Gladieux believed that once students got to work one on one with their Ways and Means representatives to assess funds on an individual org basis, there would be a much more positive response. “More events free to people is essentially better in the long run,” she said.

In terms of event planning, China also thinks that the main impact is that student orgs will no longer have to think about how to be successful fundraisers. Their events will be solely based on the interest of the group that they are targeting. In other words, the planning process will be more focused on what the student body wants compared to what the students are willing to pay for.

China said it was rewarding when, after the seven-hour Ways and Means meet- ing two weeks ago, the committee came to a decision that would help provide students next year with free events. “You feel that all the work you’ve been doing has a positive impact on campus,” she said.

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