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New funding policy raises concerns

Dave Matthews

Since it was drafted this summer, Associated Student Government's (ASG) new funding process has had zero complaints-passing the senate unanimously Sept. 18.

Zero complaints, that is, until Tuesday, when four student organizations appealed the amount of money given to them during ASG's first funding cycle, demanding more.

According to the new rules, organizations can seek event funding from ASG's funding committee twice during the school year, once per semester. In order to grant requests, the committee looks at three factors in a request: whether the event is on campus, whether the event is educational and if the event is open to all Miami students.

The most heated debate came from Miami's Habitat for Humanity, who was given no funding from ASG for two week-long trips during winter break to Montgomery, Ala. and the greater Miami, Fla. area to build homes for those impacted by hurricanes.

"In my four years here, Habitat for Humanity has always received a portion from ASG for our winter and spring break service trips," said Brian Wellman, Habitat for Humanity president. "And we have received funds from ASG for the past 18 years."

The funding committee, led by Vice President of Management Brian Wood, argued that when ASG's funding process was overhauled nearly a month ago, they agreed to not fund any trips that occur over spring and summer breaks because they simply ate up too much of ASG's budget.

"This was done to benefit as many students as possible," Wood said.

Wellman in turn argued that the Habitat for Humanity service trips have educational value in teaching participants social responsibility and any Miami student is allowed to sign up for Habitat for Humanity. However the funding committee responded by saying that winter break trips don't fall under their definition of "educational" and "open to all students."

"When we say open to all students, we mean that on the day of the event, if (a student) knows about it and wants to go, (the student) can go to it," said Andrew Ferguson, committee member.

Wellman's emotional appeal to the senate warranted sympathy from several senators, but most ultimately agreed that it is important to have a strict standard for how the committee looks at funding long trips that occur over breaks.

"Seriously, if I could give (Habitat for Humanity) money I would," said Mike Scott, off-campus senator. "But the funding committee has to show consistency."

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Currently the funding committee does fund weekend-long trips.

ASG eventually denied Habitat for Humanity's appeal, leaving Wellman disappointed.

"I'm surprised; this is the first time in my four years here we haven't received any funding from ASG," he said. "By setting the precedent to not fund spring, summer, and winter break trips they really limited what we can do outside of Oxford."

Following the appeal by Habitat for Humanity, ASG decided to allow Alpha Kappa Psi and the Secular Students of Miami hearings in front of the funding committee, due to miscommunication between the organizations and Brian Wood.

ASG also denied a late request by the Miami Christian Fellowship for money to buy a new laptop computer.

After ASG's meeting, those who had drafted the new funding process; including Wood, Student Body President Jens Sutmöller and ASG Treasurer Brendan Buholzer; admitted there are kinks in the system, but were pleased with the new process.

"It was just a matter of miscommunication early in the year," Buholzer said. "Our projected semester cutback before tonight is 16 percent, which is great."

Wood agreed that the 16 percent cutback in ASG's budget this semester is great, considering the past two semesters the cutback was 46 and 54 percent. He also expressed gratitude for the funding committee he leads.

"I'm very proud of my committee," he said. "They put in 25 plus hours of work (this semester) and nobody really sees that."

With regard to denying the Habitat for Humanity request, all three agreed that it is in the best interest of all Miami student organizations that no long-term trips be funded.

"We got expensive requests to Africa, Sweden," Wood said. "We had to ensure we had to all we can for the students."

Sutmöller said that ASG must be concerned with the entire student body before individual organizations.

"Student government, in the broadest sense, is looking out for all student organizations," Sutmöller said. "It's hard to do funding organization by organization, you have to look at the whole."