Opinions, Column

SOFC Funding Cheats Culture Clubs

One of my favorite extracurriculars at BC (aside from writing for The Heights, of course) is my position as an e-board member for the International Club of Boston College (ICBC). I joined freshman year and throughout my years here have come to realize just how significant the club has been in shaping my college experience and bringing amazing new people into my life. We host a number of different events, but by far the largest and most popular is our annual formal. It’s a night filled with dancing to global hits, mixing with friends—old and new—and best of all, bringing together BC’s international community in celebration of our wonderful diversity! This night was something that I was especially looking forward to this year—me being a senior and all. That’s why when I discovered that our funding request for the event had been denied, I was livid, to say the least. 

“How could they do that to us?” I thought. My fellow board members and I had been eagerly planning the event for months and were extremely disappointed by the news. We couldn’t help but take it personally. That is, until one board member mentioned that something similar had happened to some of her friends in other culture clubs.

I was told by my friend in the Greek Club that they had a particularly troubling experience this year. They initially submitted a request of $5,000 to the Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC) for their annual Greek Night Banquet event but received zero dollars. This is one of their biggest events of the year, and the costs they asked to be covered did not even include food, something that they usually raise money for through Robsham ticketing. This year they were told that they could not use Robsham ticketing to cover food or any other of their costs. After a lengthy appeals process, they eventually received $1,000 in funding from SOFC, which is not even close to enough to cover the costs of their event. They then conducted fundraising through family, friends, and alumni so that they could go ahead with the event in March. My club is now in a similar situation of having to figure out how, or even if, we can afford to host our event. 

How could SOFC, an organization whose mission is to “support student organizations and their activities, maximizing the value they bring to the Boston College community,” fail to support some of the biggest cultural events at BC? I reached out to the Office of Student Involvement (OSI), who oversees SOFC, to find out why on earth this was happening. Despite asking a number of specific questions about how the decision-making process occurs, whether culture clubs tend to receive less money on average and if we can expect similarly limited levels of funding in future situations, all I received in return was a generalized response and a copy of the 2021–2022 SOFC guidelines. In response to my inquiry, Megan Girmaiy, an associate director of student organizations in OSI, said, “If an event is not funded by the board, it either did not meet guidelines or the organization did not provide appropriate documentation/price quotes.” 

Naturally, my first thought was to reach out to our club treasurer to see where we went wrong. It turns out that our request met all of the outlined requirements and on top of that, we even asked for less funding than in previous years. 

The SOFC member that our treasurer was in touch with simply explained that “The committee decided not to fund the formal on the grounds that we cannot fund celebrations.”

At first, this sounded like a weird joke. Of course, they fund celebrations, right? I mean, they had been funding our formal and other events for years. So, I took a closer look at the SOFC funding guidelines, only to find myself shocked to discover that there is in fact a rule against “celebration” funding. Perhaps even more distressing, was that a number of seemingly pointless rules appeared to put culture clubs at a funding disadvantage when compared to more career and academic clubs.

The restriction surrounding celebrations read: “SOFC does not fund celebrations or banquets for organizations. What constitutes a ‘celebration’ is at the discretion of the SOFC.”

I’m sorry, but what? Why wouldn’t they? A defining aspect of all cultures, something that makes them unique, is their different celebrations. Whether it’s Diwali for the South Asian Student Association or Lunar New Year for the Chinese Student Association, “celebrations” are probably one of the most important events that a culture club can organize for the student body. 

I was even more dismayed to read that SOFC will fund up to “$8,000 per academic year for speaker fees including all associated costs (fees, travel, and lodging).” Although speakers might be brought into culture clubs in certain cases, this type of directed funding is better fitted to other more academic and career-focused clubs like The Boston College Investment Club, the Business and Law Society, Boston College Democrats, Boston College Republicans, etc. There is no question that this disproportionately affects culture clubs. 

A similarly detrimental rule lies under the title of “Cultural Food.” The rule states that “The SOFC will fund up to $1,000 of cultural food per academic year for each intercultural student organization. The $275 food cap [for all clubs] is included in this $1,000.” 

If career clubs can benefit from $8,000 a year for speakers, culture clubs should be afforded at least the same amount for food and “celebrations.” The budget has been arranged in such a way that expenses for speakers, like travel and lodging, are covered. So, SOFC understands that hosting speakers is important for many—but predominantly academic- and career-based—clubs, therefore it has enough money in the budget for it. In comparison, SOFC has failed to recognize that food is a comparably important part of any culture club and does not fund it sufficiently. Even more, it does not recognize that “celebrations” are worth any funding at all.

BC talks a big game when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but as I have previously written, it struggles to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to actually supporting diversity on campus. All the culture clubs that I have talked to are in the midst of filing appeals, but it should not be this hard. SOFC, and the University, should make it easy, not impossible, for culture clubs to thrive here on campus, giving everyone a chance to celebrate our beautifully diverse student body.

Featured Graphic by Liz Schwab/ Heights Editor

April 3, 2022

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