Travis Vail/ Special to the Roundup
The Associated Students Organization (ASO) requires that all financial requests for the following year must be made by March 15, or any group vying for funds must undergo a petitioning process with its financial committee.
Similar to the LACCD, the ASO operates from a budget released prior to its effective year, with appropriations made beforehand to finance many school activities.
The ASO does not have unlimited funds of its own; with optional student fees granting them an average of $158,000 per year over the last decade, it is reportedly very difficult to make use of the reserve fund.
Any clubs that don’t submit paperwork during the spring before each academic year are left with the responsibility of convincing the committee that their cause is worthy of support.
In effect, most of the ASO’s fiscal decisions are left up to three votes; those belong to President Daniel Axelrod, Vice President Febe Ruiz, and Treasurer Nima Jahanforouz.
“The senate doesn’t even know what’s going on in the finance committee meetings. If they look for it, they can find it, but no one really knows what’s going on until it gets approved by the finance committee,” said Senator David Bromberg, chairman of the scholarship committee. “Anything the finance committee doesn’t approve, I never see it in a senate meeting.”
For this reason, some who have gone through the process have grown skeptical of the finance committee and its objective approach to each group’s needs.
“They make it seem a lot easier than it is. They tell you that you just have to fill out the right forms, but it’s not that easy,” said Erin Hickey, president of the Street Dance Club on campus. “We’ve been trying for about a year now.”
During that same year, the Pierce Dance Club also requested funding from the ASO and received a complete renewal of the prior year’s budget of $2,000.
The Pierce Dance Club may have benefitted from submitting the right paperwork on time, but according to Hickey, the Street Dance Club has had to photograph forms before submitting them to the ASO to prevent additional copies from being improperly processed.
“It’s really discriminatory,” Hickey added. “It feels like this is a campus that doesn’t want its students to get involved outside of classes.”
According to Nima Jahanforouz, the ASO’s treasurer, the Street Dance Club’s inability to acquire funds was not a matter of favoritism; but rather, they failed to attend finance committee meetings when they were included in the agenda.
Though the Street Dance Club failed to receive funding like its longstanding counterpart did, some fairly new clubs have had success with the ASO. One example is the Latin American Culture and Literature Club, who are receiving $800 of the $1600 they requested to supplement a literary magazine.
“I think the ASO was pretty fair; being a new club, we understood that we needed to find all the information we could get and understand the process, not just come and ask for money,” said Andrea Gordillo, the club’s president. “Clubs should take a little more responsibility in organizing fundraisers because the ASO will provide tents, flyers and other advertising if you want.”
Any funds within the ASO’s yearly budget that aren’t used are transferred into the reserve fund, which requires approval from the president and vice president of administrative services for any expenditure. According to Treasurer Nima Jahanforouz, the reserve has an approximate value of $1.4 million.
“[The reserve] is ASO’s money. The reserve doesn’t get ‘contributed’ to, it’s part of their funds,” said Bruce Rosky, vice president of administrative services.
Brad Saenz, the ASO faculty advisor since 2004, said that the reserve fund has only been utilized twice during his tenure. One was to form an ASO scholarship fund, and another was to finance a book rental program in the Bookstore.
“I don’t know if there’s an official policy on it, but the way I view it is that it’s either for emergencies or something that is really large-scale and important to the students that can’t fit into the normal budget,” said Saenz.
Not only is the campus president’s approval required for any reserve fund expenditures, but many have reached the understanding that it isn’t available for marginal projects or activities that may have been passed over in lieu of other requests.
“Students don’t pay the ASO fee so that it can be sent to the reserve fund; they pay it so that they can have events on campus,” said Bromberg. “As long as there’s no money being sent into the reserve, then we’ve done our job as ASO.”
With the funds that are available and the process that is in place around them, many budget requests are decided upon based on the impression that each group is able to make on the finance committee.
The Philharmonic Choir is a prime example of that. About twenty members and their director, Terry Danne, attended the March 23 meeting to petition for funds but were omitted from the agenda, and President Daniel Axelrod was not present to allow for a motion to alter the agenda.
According to Saenz, their request had been tabled, or postponed indefinitely, requiring the group to resubmit their issue for a particular week’s agenda if it was to be addressed at all.
“I vowed I wasn’t going to submit to them anymore after five years of nothing,” said Danne, whose choir had received funding from the ASO from 1990 until 2006. “They don’t even let you know. I guess that’s the rationale: they’ll let you know if you get something.”
The choir was eventually placed on the agenda for the finance committee meeting on March 30, where members of the committee voiced their displeasure with the choir before submitting the request for a vote.
“The way that the choir has asked for this money is all wrong,” said Saenz during the meeting.
The newly appointed ASO Vice President, Febe Ruiz, shared a similar sentiment.
“It’s uncomfortable to vote on this after certain things they said [after being ‘tabled’ for a second week],” said Ruiz.
In spite of their disposition of the choir, Danne was allowed to plead his case via conference call, and the committee voted unanimously to award $2,000 of the $3,600 they requested.
Jahanforouz later elaborated on the committee’s decision-making process.
“The greatest thing about this semester is that we’re not going to make decisions based upon emotions,” said Jahanforouz. “I could be angry as hell at somebody that said something to me, but if I know that their cause is right, I know it’s my duty to support them.”