Where’s the Money?

Prospective students who are interested in attending the University of Nevada, Reno are taught of the university’s many unique opportunities to become more involved and enhance their learning environment. Most of these opportunities come from departments within the Associated Students of the University of Nevada through being involved in ASUN student government, clubs and organizations, or attending events put on by Flipside Productions — ASUN’s programming team.

What incoming and prospective students are not told is the general mistrust and distaste that students tend to feel toward ASUN.

Maggie McGoldrick, a junior at UNR and lacrosse player, is not fond of ASUN and feels that “[ASUN] doesn’t support club sports.” She also thinks that their programming department does not put on events with student interests in mind.

One of the biggest complaints from students involved in ASUN-recognized clubs and organizations is that receiving club support funding from ASUN is too difficult.

Rocio Ayard-Ochoa, the Associate Director of Clubs and Organizations, wants students to utilize this resource.

The process begins with a recognized club identifying why they want to apply for club support funding from ASUN. Following this, the organization is assigned a funding commissioner, a student appointed to aid them through the process. The commissioner is supposed to help the organization fill out their application during each funding period for that school year.

Once the club identifies why it needs funding and knows who its commissioner is, the club works with its commissioner to put together a budget and submit the final application with information on their finances.

If the application is completed correctly, the organization’s president and/or treasurer attends a funding hearing where a committee of elected students, including the originally appointed commissioner, grants or denies the request.

The entire process and application can be found online. However, smaller organizations still consistently run into problems when they attend funding hearings, despite meeting with their funding commissioner and correctly filling out the application.

According to Ayard-Ochoa, “All the information should be available on the website. As far as how accessible it is, that’s a different story…”

Allen Johnson, the president of Colleges Against Cancer, was surprised this past funding period when his club didn’t have any issues for the first time during his four-year membership in the organization.

Johnson’s club is a non-profit organization associated with the American Cancer Society, and holds numerous fundraising and awareness events throughout each school year to support both those fighting against cancer and those who are survivors of the disease.

Colleges Against Cancer looks for help from ASUN to assist with the implementation of major fundraising events such as the Black and Purple Ball, Relay for Life, and various other small fundraisers during the school year.

“Our experiences are always very interesting. We’re always asking for very minimal things… We try to put it into the forms that they want us to do but somehow there’s always something that’s changed about the forms and we never know about it, so when we submit it something’s always wrong to begin with,” Johnson said.

Preparation for a typical funding hearing for Johnson includes going over the budget and application forms multiple times with the club’s treasurer and emailing questions to the club’s funding commissioner. Following this, Johnson drafts a list of all potential questions that either himself or the club’s treasurer could possibly be asked during the hearing.

Questions range from “What do you intend to do with this money?” to “Explain your event in more detail.” The answers to these questions are often in the application, but Johnson’s experience is that ASUN always wants more information during the funding hearing itself.

However, this is not the experience for every organization that applies for funding. During the public hearings, larger organizations, especially Greek Life on campus, are not questioned to the extent that smaller clubs are.

“I really don’t see why there should be so much questioning when it’s for something like a simple fundraiser,” said Johnson. “They really interrogate us when other clubs get in there and their process goes like that… [excessive questioning] seems to happen with smaller clubs. They get grilled and really questioned about what the event is and how it’s being marketed.”

Rocio Ayard-Ochoa, Associate Director of Clubs and Organizations for ASUN, has a different opinion on why this is.

In Ayard-Ochoa’s view, smaller clubs tend to be newer and apply for funding less frequently. This is mostly true, but does not explain why clubs such as Colleges Against Cancer have been chartered for twelve years but continue to run into the same issues each funding period.

Johnson believes the issue stems from the amount of student involvement in the funding process.

Club funding commissioners are students who are appointed to the position and are required to advise organizations on their funding application throughout that school year’s funding terms.

“Getting in contact with [the commissioner] and [him or her] actually knowing what to do is very difficult for some reason,” said Johnson.

Many of the elected, appointed, and volunteers who work for ASUN are involved in Fraternity and Sorority Life on campus, which Johnson believes contributes significantly to the amount of scrutiny that smaller organizations’ applications for funding receive.

Ayard-Ochoa explains, “I would say that organizations have an understanding of how it’s distributed if they’re more established, the new organizations are probably not as well versed… but there is formal training in place,”

In addition to this, depending on what funding tier they apply for, organizations have to raise 25% or 40% of the money they want to borrow from ASUN in their account by a certain date each funding period. Smaller organizations like Colleges Against Cancer have had to have their members donate to this percentage out of pocket, while organizations such as fraternities and sororities have hundreds of members paying dues in addition to alumni support, making it much easier for them to meet this requirement of the process.

Despite whether or not the correlation between Fraternity and Sorority Life budgets and representation in ASUN plays a factor in a club or organization’s ease of receiving funding, both Ayard-Ochoa and Johnson believe that there is a disconnect between those involved in the system and the organizations they are intended to support.

To combat this from within the ASUN Center for Student Engagement, Ayard-Ochoa is working to make information more easily accessible and to put all clubs and organizations on an even playing field.

Currently, the ASUN Center for Student Engagement is coming out with a series of simple, how-to videos to help guide club leaders through the application process and timeline of club support funding.

Ayard-Ochoa also plans on simplifying the application process over time for organizations by changing budget sheets and better clarifying questions on the funding application, which she feels could confuse club leaders applying for funding for the first time.

“There is definitely room for improvement, and I think the commissioner is trying to listen to what the feedback is and making sure that it’s being addressed,” she explained.

In order to make information about the process even more readily available than it is, Ayard-Ochoa also is looking into making the funding section of ASUN’s website easier to navigate.

Currently all of the information about club support funding can be found on the website, however some of this valuable information is difficult to locate or hidden within other pages in the clubs and organizations section of the site.

Johnson agrees that there are pieces of information on the ASUN website that are difficult to access, and that this too could confuse or hinder inexperienced club leaders when they apply for club support funding.

When Johnson has had the current treasurer of Colleges Against Cancer, Jasmin Alfaro, check something on the website, she has often been confused by the information because, unlike Johnson, she has not had four years of experience in club support funding applications.

“For someone who’s never really interacted with the website and goes on for the first time… it can be very confusing in the way it’s laid out,” said Ayard-Ochoa.

Under these current restrictions that smaller organizations seem to be facing, club leaders have to be more adamant about applying for and receiving funding, and many try to become closer to their student commissioner, who often has questions during the hearing despite having been assigned to work with an organization.

“There’s always something that goes sideways,” said Johnson. “Usually we can do the budgeting and the application correct and yet we’ll get in the hearing and that’s when the issues come out because they’re confused about the event.”

Johnson has prepared his club, Colleges Against Cancer, extensively on how to work with ASUN to receive club support funding. He is graduating in May 2016 and wants to leave Colleges Against Cancer well prepared for what he expects them to experience next year when looking for support to put on the annual Wolf Pack Relay for Life event.

While he is not too fond of the experiences he’s had in applying for club support funding from ASUN, Johnson is excited that Ayard-Ochoa has been implementing changes since she first began as the Associate Director of Clubs and Organizations in September 2015.

Ayard-Ochoa is actively trying to find where ASUN and its recognized organizations aren’t communicating, and is on the side of smaller organizations when it comes to being able to access the many resources that ASUN offers to recognized clubs and organizations.

“I would hope that organizations know that it’s a resource to them and that they apply for club support funding if they need to,” she said.