With travel policies changing, 5C clubs grapple with funding allocations

Tables with signs are lined up on a walkway.
Students gather at the Pitzer Mounds for the 5C Club Fair in September. (Cecilia Ransburg • The Student Life)

After months of COVID-related restrictions on funding, 5C clubs are now able to request approval and funding for overnight trips, conferences and competitions from student governments.

Clubs across the 5Cs were forced to start off the year with less funding than they requested, frequently because student governments were operating under rules from the colleges that prohibited funding for overnight trips. 

TSL’s analysis found clubs received, on average, 55 percent of the funding they requested when disbursements were released in October. Clubs whose allocations were impacted specifically by travel restrictions received an average of 49 percent of their requests.

According to ASPC Vice President of Finance Adeena Liang PO ’23, 5C clubs make an itemized request for funding at the end of each year. Then, clubs are funded at the beginning of the next year by the student body governments of all 5Cs, who allocate funding from a pool of money they each have reserved for 5C clubs.

When funding 5C clubs, each school normally gives a percentage of the requested budget from each club, proportional to their share of students in the club, Liang said. For example, if 20 percent of club members were Pomona College students, Pomona would give the club 20 percent of its requested budget.

However, a school can go over or under this general rule “at the discretion of their budget committee or their finance person,” Liang said. And this year, COVID-19 cancellations forced student governments to originally give clubs less than what they asked for if the club’s activities had not been approved by the school yet.

To dissuade clubs from participating in overnight trips or travel competitions as a precautionary measure, Pomona did not offer enough funds to cover such budget costs, Liang said.

“We had a rule coming down from the college … that Pomona isn’t allowing for conferences, competitions and any overnight trips,” they said. “So that really affected some traveling clubs such as club sports.” 

The rule also affected funding for traveling non-sport clubs, like Mock Trial and Model UN.

But a Nov. 4 announcement from Pomona Associate Dean of Campus Life Ellie Ash-Bala signaled a policy change that granted more freedom to clubs.

“Beginning [the week of Nov. 8], we will be allowing student organizations to travel and be reimbursed from club funds, with advanced approval and specific procedures in place,” Ash-Bala said. 

Ash-Bala’s announcement came with expanded procedures to include new COVID-related rules like setting  capacity limits for hotel rooms. 

Scripps Associated Students co-treasurers Madeline Safavi SC ’24 and Lily Wartman SC ’23 said in an email that Scripps had a similar rule regarding overnight trips. As a result, seven clubs that requested funding for multi-day excursions received reduced budgets. The treasurers didn’t immediately clarify a new policy after the travel announcement.

Before the rule changed, Liang stressed that there was little that finance officials at each student government could do to change the rules that they were operating under.

“Clubs are registered with the college, ultimately, not us. We just managed the money side of it,” Liang said.

Club sports will need to work with the Pomona-Pitzer athletics department for trip permission, Ash-Bala said.

Virtual meetings made it even more difficult to work with the other student governments to make sure each club gets funding, Liang said.

The 5C women’s rugby team, of which Liang is a member, has far more students at Harvey Mudd College than Claremont McKenna College, but CMC gave the club $2,000 while Harvey Mudd only gave $80.

“So, traditionally we’d want to meet in person so we could have more of a balance … [online] there’s not that communication being like, ‘Hey, you severely underfunded this club,” Liang said.

But clubs like 5C Surf Club that don’t directly fall into the category of COVID-related travel restrictions, because they don’t compete in events and don’t go on overnight trips, also received less funding than they expected. 

After requesting $4,573 for the 2021-2022 school year, the 5C Surf Club received $2,645, which is 58 percent of what they asked for. 

Nick Morgenstein PO ’23 is the president of the 5C Surf Club, which uses its funding for supplies such as leashes, wax, snacks and sunscreen.

“[Underfunding] will limit how many trips we can take out across the year. We don’t have enough money to go three days a week like we wanted to,” Morgenstein said. “So we have to limit the number of trips we make, which is unfortunate.”

A surfer rides a big wave.
Elijah Molenkamp PZ ’23 rides a wave on a 5C Surf Club trip. (Courtesy: 5C Surf Club)

Morgenstein said that the funding system for 5C clubs lacks clarity.

“I think one issue with the system is that it is pretty opaque. It’s difficult to understand why your funding was less than you wanted it to be,” Morgenstein said.

He also said members were unclear about what items on the Surf Club’s funding request got funding and which ones didn’t. 

“Basically, we just don’t know what they’re unwilling to pay for,” Morgenstein said. “It would be helpful if ASPC would tell clubs why they didn’t get all of the funding [they asked for], and then what remaining funding they did get goes to what activities.”

Liang said the $1,820 that ASPC allocated to 5C Surf — roughly 40 percent of the request — corresponds to the fact that Pomona students make up 40 percent of the club, meaning that “in terms of ASPC, we did fully fund their entire request.” 

They emphasized that clubs are always welcome to set up a meeting with them if there is confusion about funding, and that club leaders should reach out to the 5C student governments which did not fully fund requests proportional to the club’s makeup of students.

“I’ve had several meetings this year already with club leaders who have had specific questions about funding for their clubs or funding in general and I’ve had dozens of email correspondences with many more clubs and/or club leaders,” they said in an email.

In addition to travel restrictions, the budget allocation document listed existing money in clubs’ accounts, restrictions on funding subjects and lack of detail in requests as rationale for student governments’ decisions. 

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