Editor’s Note: this article is a direct response to the Collegian article published Feb. 10th, 2023. These interviews were conducted prior to the email update Brady Lang sent to impacted selective student organization leaders
Various student organizations shared mixed to negative feedback about the changes to the Student Organization Budget and Appropriations Committee funding guidelines, citing the lack of clarity and timing, amongst other reasons.
On Jan. 18, the Richmond College Student Government Association and Westhampton College Government Association approved updates to the SOBAC funding guidelines, which included the removal of annual funding for selective groups, the opening of contingency funding for campus-wide events and the elimination of the 60/40 travel budget rule.
In an email obtained by The Collegian that was sent to the impacted selective organizations on Feb. 10th, junior Brady Lang, vice president of finance in RCSGA, issued an apology over the lack of communication regarding the changes.
“During [SOBAC] meetings, arguments were made almost entirely from one side for why funding should be eliminated for audition/application organizations, with no opportunity for representatives of the organizations to defend their case for funding,” Lang wrote.
The impacted organizations have until March 3 to work with SOBAC to pass revisions to the guidelines to ensure that they’re eligible for annual funding. Lang is currently working with these organizations to conduct meetings to update and pass the new guidelines, according to the email.
Before the email was sent, the Collegian reached out to various organizations impacted by the changes.
“There is nothing that we do that is inherently private or selective in terms of our mission and our goals as a group,” junior Alex Robertson said. He is the president of the Richmond Octaves, one of four acapella groups on campus which no longer can apply for annual funding under the Jan. 18 guidelines because their audition process defines them as a selective organization.
“I think that there’s a distinction between selective and exclusive organizations,” Robertson said.
Robertson felt the notion of selectivity is targeted incorrectly because the updates affect all selective organizations but have little to no impact on the exclusivity of certain clubs, he said. He noted that not all selective organizations are exclusive, but the updates seemed to classify them as an exclusive organization.
“Why are we going to use university funding that's supposed to benefit everybody, when those groups (selective organizations) are only benefiting themselves?” Robertson said.
Prior to the changes, the Richmond Octaves reportedly used most of their SOBAC funding for their operational costs. The revenue generated from off campus performances does not cover operating expenses, including album production and hiring a sound engineer, Robertson said.
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The Octaves were in the process of switching distributors when the updates were released, resulting in the money spent on the distributor left unusable, Robertson said.
Sophomore Abigail Ali, treasurer of Alpha Sigma Kappa- Women in Technical Studies, felt that the unexpected changes in guidelines led to initial unpreparedness, given the information shared through RSO Leadership Training for new presidents and treasurers, she said.
“I just think we weren't prepared for it,” Ali said. “I went to a specific non-SOBAC treasurer training… this was the beginning of January, actually, before they updated the guidelines.”
Given ASK’s selective membership status and the collection of dues, the organization was not considered a SOBAC organization before the Jan. 18 changes. Now, ASK is eligible for contingency funding that can be contributed to events open to the community of the University of Richmond. Members plan to use the funding for their philanthropy event, which will be open for the entire community, Ali said.
“We've done philanthropy events in the past and we've spent our own money to do the event,” Ali said. “And then any profit we make, we don't take any of it, 100% percent of the proceeds go to that charity.”
Ali also discussed potentially opening up smaller events to the community.
“I think if this contingency funding gets more accessible and easier to get, I think it would definitely be something that we would talk about, because it does reduce our dues a lot,” Ali said.
Junior Lauren Xavier, president of Subject to Change, shared her frustration over the rushed nature of the notification.
“I knew a little bit ahead of time before everyone else, but I wasn't for sure, like certain. But even if I did know 100%, that still would not have been enough time.It’s like,” Xavier said. “They just randomly decided this.”
Having SOBAC funding removes the stress of having to think of sourcing money for operations, even if they may not use the funds every time, Xavier said.
“We think it is an extreme slight to the arts community,” senior Elijah Michel, president of Block Crew, said. While auditions are essential for membership to Block Crew, it is merely to gauge interest, skill and commitment, as members are not required to have prior dance training to join, he said.
Contingency funding will be available for events open to the community as of the new guidelines. Michel shared his disappointment over the inability to partake in events organized outside of the university which do not comply with the updated SOBAC guidelines.
The SOBAC guidelines give priority to organizations who “provide a focus on multicultural experiences and initiatives,” according to the guidelines.
Block Crew brings in diverse members from several different countries, Michel said.
“We are the only organization that is contributing to promoting a black artform on campus or a black-based artform on campus,” he said.
Michel was concerned that people were left unaware of the impact of the changes on the various student organizations on campus because the updates were released so abruptly, he said.
Through showcases like the Celebration of Dance, sophomore Asia Garcia, treasurer of Block Crew, said her organization, alongside other contributors to the event, contributes to the campus community because everyone is invited to these events.
“People come on campus for free to see us perform or to see us have a community with each other,” Garcia said. “And I don't understand how that's not holistically creating a community on campus.”
Senior Katrina Hale, co-president of the a capella group The Sirens, said that the changes upset the group.
“It was a complete surprise, I had no idea,” she said. “We applied for SOBAC funding last year, went through the whole process and it didn't seem like they didn't say anything about any changes.”
Hale was disappointed that the changes were made without the input of The Sirens, she said.
“I just wish that I was able to express how it's so important to us and wish we could have made more of a group decision instead of someone just making it for us,” she said.
The Sirens, who are in the process of recording an album, may not get the funding they need to do so if the guidelines do not change again.
Hale planned to express her opinion about the policy changes, and hoped that the SOBAC would reconsider, she said.
“I'm planning on really making sure to express my opinion and still see if there's any possibility that it can be changed,” Hale said.
Contact news writers Gareth Woo and Kalina Kulig at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
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