Funding board: ASB’s off-campus focus not right for A status

Jessica Gdowski

Alternative Spring Break’s quest to keep student funding will have to wait one more night, after programming directors for the group failed to win an appeal of the Student Activities Finance Board’s recommendation to demote the student group.

SAFB recommended during its annual student group review that ASB be demoted and upheld its decision during the appeal Tuesday night by a narrow vote, according to ASB members.

The group will have a final opportunity to reverse the decision in front of the Senate at tonight’s meeting. Senate members present tonight must vote in favor of ASB by a two-thirds majority to overturn the decision.

ASG Financial Vice President Le’Jamiel Goodall declined to comment on SAFB’s decision Tuesday night.

An e-mail sent to the group by Goodall said ASB’s aim to provide service off-campus goes against the purpose of the Student Activities Fee. The e-mail also said ASB’s application process for its participants does not allow equal access for all interested students.

ASB provides service learning opportunities during Winter and Spring Breaks and some weekends throughout the school year.

ASB leaders said SAFB should have looked at the effects of their programming.

“I’m disappointed,” said Melissa McGonegle, an Education senior and ASB co-director. “I’m pretty hopeful we’ll win in Senate because there’s a lot of student support for what we do.”

McGonegle said ASB’s mission directly affects Northwestern.

“ASB doesn’t try to end homelessness worldwide but (does try) to affect NU students,” she said. “And that happens when they come back from Spring Break.”

The consequence of the demotion, from A to B status, means ASB would not get funds from the Student Activities Fee. Recommendations for the allotment of money are made by SAFB, which must seek approval from ASG.

The affects of a demotion would not be felt this year, but the loss of funding would result in cutting on-campus programming in the future, McGonegle said.

ASB sponsors on-campus activities such as Expo Day and Campus Connections in addition to the trips. McGonegle said these additional activities are a fundamental part of ASB’s mission.

“ASB is not about the week you spend in Baltimore,” she said. “It’s about what you do when you get back.”

McGonegle said ASB has dealt with defining the group’s mission before.

“I feel like every year we go through the same procedure,” she said. “We have to fight for our existence and remind people why we exist.”

ASG named the group to A status in 1998, and it has not been considered for demotion since.

Michelle SanPedro, a Weinberg sophomore and ASB participant, said her experience prompted her to volunteer more at NU.

“I think it’s one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s total immersion, and you really get into volunteering. It hooked me up to volunteer opportunities on campus.”

SanPedro went on to join Northwestern Community Development Corps and Residential College Board, which organizes volunteers from residential colleges.

“Sometimes you have to go off-campus,” she said. “It really reaches campus in the end.”

The issue of a selective application process was among SAFB’s concerns, but applications are necessary, according to McGonegle.

“We send people all over the country, and we need a commitment from them,” McGonegle said. “An application process is necessary to what we do. It’s also logistically important.”

While the application process does establish a waiting list, McGonegle said most people on the list eventually are offered a trip.

“We have the waiting list not to make it exclusive but to make it feasible,” McGonegle said.

McGonegle said ASB’s options are slim if the demotion passes through the Senate tonight.

“If we are demoted to B status, we’ll have to do our own fund raising, and our trip prices are going to go up,” she said.

ASB program directors are hopeful that tonight’s meeting will end in their favor. McGonegle said she anticipates support from senators who have gone on ASB trips.

Group members also have shown support for the program directors through the appeal procedure, she said.

“I just hope a lot of people support us tomorrow,” McGonegle said. “I’ve been getting e-mails and phone calls all the way.”

Regardless of tonight’s decision, McGonegle said ASB plans to continue its mission to provide community service.

“We’re not going to fold by any means,” she said. “(Running ASB) is going to take a lot more work on the part of our executive board.”

ASG senators will vote tonight on the proposed derecognition or demotion of seven other student groups, including the Northwestern chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Art+Performance magazine.