Why the ASUU Assembly Cuts Funding for Student Organizations’ Food Budgets


The ASUU offices in the Ray A. Olpin Student Union. (Chronicle archives.)

By Brock Bernstein, News Writer

Every student-run organization at the University of Utah that requests extra funding will inevitably need to stand before the Associated Students of the University of Utah Assembly. Regardless of why each group wants funding, they all have an individual limit of up to $3,500. Because ASUU has a limited budget, the Assembly often needs to make cuts to student organization funding requests.

“My representative Johnathan Kirkham said ASUU really does like to cut [costs for] food and shirts,” said Jonathan White, a third-year studying quantitative analysis of markets and organizations, who serves as the treasurer for the Business and Economics Society. “I don’t think it’s unfair … With that being said, I don’t understand why [our] funding requests [for food and shirts] need to be cut twice.”

This motion to cut, introduced by Assembly member Gabriel Mista, proposed to halve the number of meetings that would be provided with food for the Business and Economics Society. This motion was immediately followed by a second, introduced by Assembly member Alexis Esplin, in which it was proposed that the number of requested shirts for the organization be halved as well.

While many student organizations suffer a similar fate when requesting funding for food or shirts for their groups, it isn’t done without reason. “We often have people request twice as much money as we can give,” said Mitch Kirkham, a senior studying biomedical engineering who serves as the Assembly Chair. “It’s a game of funding as much as we can … and usually we do meet people halfway.” Kirkham went on to explain that, despite what may seem like a vendetta against food from the Assembly, they have actually been funding far more food for student organizations than in past years.

Throughout the 2017-2018 school year, there used to be financial caps on each item that student organizations could request. This was changed under Kirkham’s leadership. “When I became chair, I removed all category caps and financial guidelines so Assembly could adapt to each group,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure we’re on a good pace to fund every student group as evenly as possible.” He showed the amount that organizations had received in funding for food at their events between two years ago, explaining that the Assembly was only able to give $23,554 to student groups. He then showed that last year the amount was tripled, with the Assembly being able to give out $74,400 due to the removal of the aforementioned financial caps. 

While the Assembly does often motion to cut costs when it comes to funding food, there’s almost always a reason behind it — more often than not, the Assembly uses this as a means to afford more long-lasting, non-perishable items for different clubs. “We think that funding other things is more important than food,” said Kirkham. “Things that are permanent … there are so many examples of physical items that last longer.” One such example was seen in the Oct. 22 Assembly meeting when the Track Club requested funding for new durable tracksuits and had their funding bill swiftly and unanimously passed.

Kirkham stressed how the most important principal for members of the ASUU assembly is that of transparency. He never wants students to feel slighted and confused as to why certain funding requests may get denied. “We need to vocalize that justification, at least when students are there [at the Assembly], so they understand why we make the cuts,” he said. “If we had the money I’d love to fund every group … but the numbers don’t lie and we have to stretch, and that’s where the decision making process comes into question.”

In every situation the Assembly looks to first assess the needs of each group and what their funds can be best put towards to enrich the quality of these student run organizations. “I think my message to students is: we are doing everything that we can to enable all clubs on this campus to have success. And we have limited resources, but we do everything we can with those limited resources to help them achieve those goals,” said Kirkham. “We are making an unbiased assessment of their clubs and giving as much help as we can.”

The Assembly Chair wants all student organizations to know that the Assembly looks to help every group that they can, even when it’s challenging to provide funding. “We are working really hard and we’re very conscious of what students want and we’ll always try to cater to those needs.” 


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