Funding System for ASUN-Recognized Clubs on Campus Creates Frustrations and Missed Opportunities

Reporters Cayley Dishion and Montana Lloyd find out why several clubs on campus have voiced their frustration towards ASUN’s allocation of their budget. The concern stems from some larger clubs not being able to support all of their members and forcing outside fundraising to make up for a lack of funds.

Elsie Childress, current social chair and former Vice President of Nevada Winter Sports Club, is one of the many club officials frustrated with how ASUN distributes club support funding. Childress, along with the Winter Sports Club, spend most of their winter skiing the slopes of Palisades Tahoe. Photo by: Cayley Dishion

The Associated Students of the University of Nevada and Its Controversial Budget

At the beginning of each school year, the quad on the south end of the University of Nevada, Reno’s campus fills with tables being set up for the annual club fair. The event is put on by the Associated Students of the University of Nevada and is partly paid for by every undergraduate student at the University, making up most of ASUN’s operating budget.

ASUN is a vital part of the University with elected officials governing co-curricular activities to running services like the Nevada Wolf Shop and Campus Escort. As essential as ASUN is to campus life, there is controversy though about how the budget is managed. One issue is that some clubs are so much bigger than others, or require equipment and travel which is more expensive than for other activities, but size or activity cost isn’t reflected in the funds these organizations end up getting.

First, a bit of background to understand the scope and range of UNR’s organizations, with over 250 on-campus clubs. ASUN is in charge of all of these, with a specific department for this currently led by senior Nicolas Marimberga. Marimberga previously served as Assistant Director of Clubs and Organizations where he handled the budget of the department. During his sophomore year, Marimberga served as Club Commissioner for the coalition of Service and Community Outreach where he was able to expand his expertise within Clubs and Organizations. This puts him in the know of how this complex system operates.

The top chart shows the direct comparison between the Club and Organizations overall budget and the amount of club support.

The below chart has a breakdown of the allocated budget over the past five years (2018–2022). There seems to be a trend in an increased budget, which could be due to the increased student fees.

Digging into the Details and Complex Rules

ASUN has an allocated budget of $3,204,697.25 for the 2022 fiscal year (FY). This is made up of every undergraduate student enrolled at the University required to pay $6.10 per unit they take, per semester. The 2021 fiscal year, undergraduate students paid five dollars per credit for a total allocated budget of $3,392,274.32.

According to the Nevada Sagebrush, students were highly in favor of this increase, including Sandra Rodriguez, the current director of student engagement. ASUN hadn’t seen an increase like this in over ten years. The projected amount being around $475,000 to fund things like “campus escort, club and organization funding, diversity initiatives, and inclusion programs.”

In the breakdown of Clubs and Organizations in FY 2022, there is an allocated budget of $299,250. Seventy-six percent is dedicated to club support which funds wages, fringe, host, operating, club support, and club insurance, according to official terminology. Although the budget was almost $200,000 more in 2021 FY, there was $106,377 more put towards clubs and organizations in 2022 FY.

Although this is a significant budget dedicated to ASUN affiliated clubs, there is an uproar of individual clubs feeling jipped of fund disbursement. Among those feeling slighted is the Winter Sports Club, which needs extra help for equipment and competitions.

Current social chair and former president for the Nevada Winter Sports Club, Elsie Childress, finds more struggle than support in terms of funding with a club size of 500 members.

“I think there should be more funding for clubs that are larger,” Childress said. “I’d also like to see some sort of adjustment based on how expensive the activity is. Right now each club gets the same funding regardless of how many members there are.”

The Winter Sports Club has to do additional fundraising within the club to be able to provide the members with a true club experience. When prompted with what the club would do with additional funding, Childress had a selfless response.

“With increased funding, we would be able to provide low-income students with the opportunity to ski through our Learn to Ski Program,” Childress said. “We could create lifelong skiers and snowboarders who are from backgrounds currently underrepresented in winter sports.”

Competitive clubs are becoming more frustrated, especially with the recent student fee increase, yet still receiving the same amount of funding regardless of their club size. Clubs like Nevada equestrian, hockey, rodeo, and skiing are also typically on the pricier side with more expensive equipment and competition fees.

Marimberga defends the system ASUN has in place confidently fighting for funds being dispersed equally across all clubs without member size being put into consideration.

“We have items that we can and cannot fund and certain items have caps on how much we can fund it for,” Marimberga explained. “Clubs can request money out of different tiers that are available to them. These tiers have different amounts in them that are available to the clubs.” For further detail on how club funding works click here to view the full Club Support Funding Policy Manual.

In order for a club to be accepted through ASUN, the club must have a minimum of four members to be recognized and receive funding. Clubs with four or so members have more wiggle room in terms of finances, compared to clubs with hundreds of members. However, there are stipulations in place to receive the full amount. The full amount can only be received if the club submits applications and holds a community service event. Bottom line is clubs won’t receive the same fixed amount of funding.

“​I am very confident in the Club Support Funding system we have in place,” Marimberga said. “One of the first things I did when I assumed my position as Director was review and make important edits to how we fund clubs.”

An example of a type of fundraising conducted when club support does not meet financial demand. Competitive clubs are being forced to do additional fundraising, to receive the same amount smaller clubs are receiving per member.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Although additional fundraising has helped in assisting clubs, some clubs due to current rules have been unable to support their members and club activities.

“In the past, athletes have qualified for USCSA Nationals and have been unable to attend due to the cost,” Childress said of the Winter Sports Club. “Our alpine team is lucky because they have a Booster organization that helps out, but our freeride team does not. Currently, their long term goals are out of reach due to lack of funding.”

The total cost of sending a team to the USCSA Nationals can cost more than $20,000, and without having the crucial financial support, the tight budget has caused the Winter Sports Club and its members to feel at a major disadvantage because of the smaller disbursement of funding.

“The issue is that the money offered is not enough to really do anything,” Childress said.

Further crimping the budget, due to rules and the on-campus event tier and the travel tier for Winter Sports not being combined, the cost for both components were not equally supported. This resulted in $2500 of the $6000 club funds not able to be used of late, Childress explained.

When thinking of those low-income students who would like to join the club but can’t afford it financially, Childress has the desire to see change.

“We can’t be inclusive without money because skiing is expensive — our activity inherently excludes low-income people and without additional funding, we can’t correct that,” Childress said.

Regardless of the number of members per club, some students say there are important benefits to splitting the funds equally across all ASUN affiliated clubs. Clubs that have fewer members have to work harder in order to get the same support and financial assistance than clubs with larger members easily receive.

“First of all, I believe in creating an equal opportunity across all clubs,” Marimbega said. “The smaller clubs would feel frustrated and tied down with not much opportunity to grow. Most clubs that have a lot of members are established and do not need as much of our support while small clubs put on big projects and events to also grow their club.”

A clip from a segment on Nevada ASUN’s story highlight, Clubs & Organizations

Thinking Bigger and Better?

The complex rules, regulations, and decisions often change from term to term with elected officials coming in and out of office. It seems to be a concern mostly for clubs.

“To my knowledge, the policies and procedures of club fund disbursement have been put in place over the years as the department has grown,” Marimbega explained. “This has been up to the discretion of the Director of the Department of Clubs and Organizations each fiscal year.”

When asked what could be done better in ASUN as a whole and in terms of how clubs receive money, Keegan Murphy, current ASUN Vice President, gave the phrase of “thinking bigger.”

“ASUN is a large and robust organization,” Murphy said “We utilize a $3 million budget to fund many services and programs, not to mention employing over 150 people. Often, we focus on the day-to-day operations of our association and the university, and I think we could be better at planning long term strategic goals, with a mindset to make real change for the future.”

With a lack of snow earlier this week and not enough funds, the Winter Sports Club canceled their annual dead day, shred day event leaving Childress feeling more frustrated this time of year. “We seek to support the UNR winter sports community and provide a more affordable experience via pass discounts, but we can’t do that without the proper funding,” Childress said.

New snow on the way though and the end of the Fall semester could give some cheer to current members.

Reporting by Cayley Dishion and Montana Lloyd for the Reynolds Sandbox

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The Reynolds Sandbox showcases innovative and engaging storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab.

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