Cilento, Vinson head into term with new funding ideas

Erica Snow, Assistant Campus Editor

Macs Vinson said it’s “disheartening” to reject student groups who apply for Associated Student Government funding.

So, the new executive vice president is looking to put into motion plans that he and others have worked on to change the way ASG funds student groups.

Vinson, a McCormick junior, along with new president Christina Cilento, said he has wanted to reform funding in ASG for more than a year. After the pair narrowly won the election Friday with a platform centered on marginalized students, Vinson and Cilento said they both want to focus on using the spring budget to help student groups. Cilento wants to make sure groups like Quest Scholars Network are a top priority, and Vinson wants to abolish the current A- and B-status labeling system that ASG uses to categorize students groups when it comes to funding.

Vinson said his past experience in the B-status finances committee showed him flaws in the funding system. He said he and other former ASG executives will propose a plan that would move toward a three-fund system, comprised of a programming, operating and general fund.

Vinson said the possibility of a wider-scale funding reform, which may be presented to Senate later this quarter, could help smaller student groups — some being cultural groups — get the funds they need.

Currently, student groups recognized by ASG are ranked as either A- or B-status. Student groups that often hold large events and sometimes receive tens of thousands of dollars are classified as A-status while student groups with lower costs, often only a few hundred dollars, are called B-status. 

Vinson worked with three Weinberg seniors on the proposal: former vice president for B-status finances Kenny Mok, former vice president for A-status finances Mackenzie Schneider and former vice president for student activities Parag Dharmavarapu in making a proposal to Senate.

Vinson said the new system would take away the “hierarchy” between student groups and make the funding system more flexible and responsive.

“Our funding system literally only accommodates only a few groups, and the other groups are just finangaled to fit into it,” Vinson said, referring to groups such as A&O Productions and Mayfest. “What we’re effectively trying to do is thinking about all the groups we have and how to best cater to them.”

But A&O co-chair Cory Goldman said A&O was not a better student group because it’s considered an A-status group, but rather it needed larger funds for annual productions like Blowout.

Last year, funds allocated to A&O and Mayfest together totaled roughly $540,000, more than half of the A-status finance pool.

“We are funded because we’ve historically put on large, successful events,” Goldman, a Weinberg senior, said. “The (Student Activities Finance Committee) is just trying to be responsible with student money and giving it to events that they are confident will be successful.”

Goldman added that A&O would comply with any funding reforms made. Vinson said the reform may affect B-status groups the most.

Mok said he wants to see the restructuring of ASG’s funding and an increase in the student activities fee, even as a senior, to create less confusion surrounding the funding process and more money to distribute to groups.

“I hope that whatever the changes look like, it’s making the process easier for groups … more transparent and maybe, for some groups, that means more access to money,” Mok said.

Cilento said she reached out to Quest Scholars Network, a group that advocates for first-generation and low-income students, after winning the election to ensure the organization that its funding remained a priority, and she hoped to see a “special funding pool” for social justice-oriented events.

Spring Quarter is also the time ASG’s internal budget is set, comprised of the $58 quarterly student activities fee each student pays to create the budget of roughly $1.4 million.

As Cilento meets with student groups and administrators, she said she wants her and Vinson to remember promises made during their campaign about how they would unionize, not govern.

“I don’t want the year to pass and people to be like, ‘Oh, that was just another ASG campaign,’” Cilento said. “I really want to be able to deliver on that. … I want to make sure we’re really thinking about it constantly and not just going through the motions of ASG without thinking about how it ties back to what we originally ran on.”

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