The politics of club funding

A lot of money is reserved for club funding. Over $80,000 of student money was budgeted for clubs last year. With all of this money being doled out, past experience has caused me to wonder how the student union decides which clubs receive the most funding.

Clubs at UTM range from those with large membership bases, such as the Muslim Student Association, to the smaller UTM Cycling Club. Often, club executives will gripe about cramped office space and difficulty booking venues for events, but the most frequent complaint concerns the size of the cheque they receive from UTMSU.

As Dan DiCenzo, a former VP university affairs and academics of UTMSU, expressed to our News Editor Larissa Ho, the funding for academic societies is relatively clear-cut. The amount of funding received depends strongly on the number of students in the program. He states that this is different from the process for funding clubs, in which a “good” club will get more funding.

I don’t mean to get all philosophical here, but what constitutes “good”? VP campus life Filipe Santos explained that while factors such as proposed events, budget, and financial standing are considered, the funding for clubs is ultimately determined on a case-by-case basis and recommendation by the Clubs Committee—comprising three UTMSU executives and three directors of the board.

Without an algorithm, the division of funds is arbitrary. When the provincial government divvies money between the ministries, they take more consideration (I would hope) than to simply recommend “good” programs on which they’ll spend taxpayers’ dollars.

It’s no secret that I ran for an executive position at UTMSU a few years ago. During that time, I witnessed just how vulnerable clubs are to the ebb and flow of student politics on this campus.

Almost three years ago, I ran on a team that was considered the “opposition” against the incumbent slate—those yellow shirts you see every year in March. We appealled to clubs for support, but were constantly turned down. Meanwhile, the other team racked up endorsements.

Without divulging any identities, many executives from larger clubs told us that they had already been approached by the other slate and had provided their endorsement under the promise that their club would receive increased funding and their executives would receive better opportunities in the union the following year. Smaller clubs declared neutrality, expressing the fear that their club funding would be cut as a result of supporting the “opposition” slate if we were to lose—which we did.

The experience was frustrating for our team and for club executives. From the feedback I received during the campaign, club executives and members seemed uneasy about the potentially volatile atmosphere.

This incident occurred years ago and shouldn’t reflect poorly on the current administration. Then again, the current administration did run unopposed; perhaps political promises weren’t necessary. I’d be curious to see what would happen with the debate on club funding if another “opposition” team were to form this year.


Stefanie Marotta

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