USG rejected funding for established student organizations

USG’s dedication to equitable funding resulted in many established organizations not receiving funding they rely on.

Cash being fanned out from a wallet.

While the Undergraduate Student Government feels they succeeded at making funding more equitable this year, their efforts resulted in some organizations not receiving the money they rely on.

“Equity has been at the forefront of our funding priorities this past year,” said USG President Woodworth in an interview with Annenberg Media.

One way USG hoped to achieve budget equity this year was by making funding more accessible to RSOs. They reduced the guidelines to receive money from 26 pages to four, hoping that would encourage more organizations to apply.

“There was just way too much information that confused people and we believe it disincentivized people from applying,” said Woodworth.

Along with shortening the guidelines, USG also made them more user friendly.

“We created a flowchart. We made the process very, very easy to navigate. We think that had a direct impact,” said Woodworth.

These efforts were successful and consequently resulted in many more RSOs applying this year compared to last. According to Woodworth, while 378 organizations applied for funding, USG could only fund 166.

Woodworth also wanted to prioritize new organizations getting USG funding.

“We wanted the budget to be able to serve the orgs that historically have not gone represented in USG because the USG should not just be serving the same organizations year after year,” said Woodworth.

This year the undergraduate student government spent 98% of its almost $350,000 budget for RSOs, whereas it only spent 64% of last year’s $371,000.

“We have over a thousand RSOs at USC and we only have over $300,000 to give to RSOs. No way that we can fund everyone. And that’s just the unfortunate truth of the budget,” said Woodworth.

Even though USG spent over a quarter more of their budget this year in relation to last year, many organizations felt they were neglected and didn’t receive funding at the fault of USG.

“Historically, our club has always gotten the full expense paid,” said latin fusion dance group Break On 2′s president Jessica Stacey, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, in a statement to Annenberg Media.

USG gave some organizations which previously received full or partial funding nothing or very little compared to past years.

“USG funding is never guaranteed. That’s not something to be heavily relied on,” said Ryan Stowe, CFO of USG.

Break On 2 had its funding cut completely this year, from $5000, the previous spring. They typically hold their showcase in Bovard Auditorium, which requires a $4500 deposit. Three weeks before their deposit was due, USG informed them they would not receive funding.

“We were left scrambling as a result of USG’s lack of communication,” said Stacey.

Woodworth expressed that the increase in funding caused the process to take longer than they would have liked.

“We were processing so many applications that we got backed up, we had to close it for a week in the spring to give us time to catch up,” said Woodworth.

The manager of Breakthrough Hip-Hop, Sabrina Goldfeder, a senior majoring in sociology, told Annenberg Media USG had funded their showcase for all three semesters she has been manager. This year after turning in their application, USG told the Hip-Hop group they would not receive funding from USG.

“We spoke to a Korean soda company to maybe get funding from them, but that didn’t work out. We’re just trying to find other ways to pay for Bovard without having to lose our money,” said Goldfeder.

Breakthrough Hip-Hop ended up getting half of their Bovard payment from Visions and Voices, a university-wide arts and humanities initiative. For the other half, they had to fundraise and reach out to members’ parents for donations.

“What the director or assistant directors do is go over the application to see if it’s fundable and if the timeline works. And then if they tick both those boxes and there’s money left it will be approved,” said Jake Stemmons, the director of social, recreation, and startup funds for USG.

Stemmons added that the funding department hoped to use up all the funds this year, as in years past there had been a significant amount of the budget left over.

“The consequence of that is that we ran out of funds earlier,” said Stemmons.

Nancy Shao, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering, who is on the executive board for the Associated Students of Biomedical Engineering, (ASBME), planned to apply for about $3000 for members to get CPR certification. In previous years, ASBME had gotten upwards of $4000 for other events.

Shao went through the entire application process and then found out the funding application was closed. It closed on March 7, two weeks before the original application deadline. USG did not communicate this change to the RSOs.

Woodworth explained that this was also due to the increase in applications causing a back up.

While USG has made the application process more straightforward than in years past, it still requires effort from the organization’s leaders.

The RSOs must prepare a PowerPoint presentation detailing the event they are seeking funding for, a detailed spreadsheet of the funding, quotes given from any outside sources USG will be paying and a Google form on top of that.

Grace Zhang, a third year majoring in American studies and ethnicity, who is on the core team of USC Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE), applied for funding in the first half of this semester. They hoped to get food catered to an event they were hosting with a guest speaker.

“We did the PowerPoint, we filled out a Google form, and then we got a reply back saying they hit the funding capacity for the spring semester,” said Zhang.