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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Appropriate Appropriations

    Last week, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senate voted against funding “”Overflow,”” a Christian concert organized by Priority College Ministries, a UA student group, on the basis that funding the request would violate an updated provision in their bylaws. The decision caught clubs across campus by surprise, leaving them uncertain about the new rules applying to the allocation of ASUA funds – and left the Christian club scrambling for $4,000 to pay for their evangelic event.

    Although the show went on after the club collected donations from local churches, controversy over the funding decision has continued.

    It’s unfortunate that a last-minute change to the rules left students floundering. But ASUA senators acted appropriately, impartially applying the new rules. Since then, the controversy surrounding their decision has been mired in misconceptions.

    An article in the Arizona Daily Star claimed that “”funding was pulled “” after being “”promised”” to organizers. In actuality, it wasn’t finally approved in the first place. And an article in the Wildcat declared that funds would be refused to groups “”too politically, religiously extreme”” and would fund only activities that “”benefit the UA community as a whole.”” But the bylaw text includes no guidelines for evaluating extremism or calculating the benefit of events.

    Instead, it merely clarifies an older, more ambiguous rule. Before the changes, it prohibited ASUA from funding “”non-political/non-religious programs,”” an imprecise term with plenty of wiggle room. The amended text is detailed and exact, specifying six cases that are expressly forbidden, including events that exclude some students, involve proselytizing and worship, are expressly political, or are merely for entertainment or commercial benefit. No government should be meddling in religion or politics. The more rigorous rule is exactly what ASUA needs to avoid the crippling funding controversies of years past.

    Indeed, one problem with the decision is that the “”Overflow”” event was funded for the last seven years, according to an article published yesterday in the Wildcat. It’s no surprise that students expected the event to be funded again. But even under the old bylaw, it shouldn’t have received public money – and should have been caught by the Appropriations Board years ago. But the fact that ASUA refused to fund it means that somebody’s paying attention to the rules – and that’s a good thing.

    Plus, political and religious groups are still eligible for support, according to ASUA. “”ASUA can still provide material support to any clubs – even religious or political,”” said Dustin Cox, the Senate’s vice chair. “” We can help pay for a tent on the Mall, printing T-shirts – just not overt religious or political events.””

    At a university with hundreds of student organizations eager for their share of the ASUA dole, a board to review funding applications and make fiscal recommendations to the Senate is a necessity. ASUA senators should be spending their time and energy working to fulfill the campaign promises they were elected on – and which are frequently never accomplished – and not reviewing the minutia of subsidy requests from student clubs.

    But if the Appropriations Board is to act effectively as an agent of the Senate, it is imperative that they fully understand the rules and procedures that direct ASUA funds. Likewise, clubs should understand the function of the board – it is a committee that has no power to actually distribute cash but merely makes recommendations to the Senate. A board confused about protocol and clubs that prematurely budget funds will only result in angry students.

    “”There are a lot of things that needed to be reviewed,”” said Jessica Anderson, ASUA executive vice president. “”We’re reaching out and clarifying the rules for student organizations.””

    It’s a good start. To avoid conflict in the future, appropriations rules must be clarified, communicated and objectively executed.

    Opinions Board: Editorials are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Sarah Keeler, Connor Mendenhall, Jerry Simmons and Allison Dumka.

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