Of the many hats I wear here at Pomona, my role in Skeeze’s leadership—the Ski and Snowboard Club of the Claremont Colleges—is the one in which I take most pride. This year, my ability to lead the club has been substantially limited by the Associated Students of Pomona College—the very organization that’s supposed to support clubs and their leaders—at a direct cost to club members. I’d like to bring several of these issues to light for future members of the ASPC to consider.
While I’ve dealt with a number of frustrating issues this year, I would like to focus this piece on my attempts to obtain funding for our flagship trip, Mammoth Reading Days—a trip I knew about even before I was accepted into Pomona. It has grown from attracting around 45 attendees my freshman year to nearly 80 this past year. The trip provides a welcome break between the end of fall semester classes and finals while allowing both first-time and experienced skiers and snowboarders to indulge in two days of riding at one of the largest ski resorts in the country. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration when I say that it’s one of the biggest and most popular off-campus trips offered at the 5Cs. My junior year, we had over 225 people register for about 50 available spots, and we have since had to implement a raffle system to prevent people from lining up hours before the official sign-up period.
With such a popular and successful trip, it’s always been my hope that ASPC would support it to the greatest possible extent, particularly considering the $7,000 or so of their money that goes toward Ski-Beach Day’s half day of skiing every year. To a certain extent, that’s exactly what has happened. While our allocation from the school hovers around $1,500—a number that can’t easily be leveraged toward a trip which costs in excess of $12,000—I’ve always approached ASPC’s budget committee each fall for additional financial support. During my sophomore and junior years, my requests were fulfilled to the greatest amount permitted within the committee’s guidelines: $10/student or about $500 total. While it remained unclear to me why each year’s committee was willing to help fund the trip, but not to at some point lump that amount into our overall budget allocation, I continued to submit our fall requests given the reasonable expectation that the actions of past budget committees would be repeated, despite my frustration with having to revisit the committee every fall.
My request for this year’s Reading Days trip, however, was met with resistance. It was initially denied. Chaired by Kelly Schwartz, this year’s committee identified two concerns: that their funding wouldn’t make the trip substantially more affordable, and that clubs shouldn’t come to them expecting money. The issue of substantial impact is an important concern that the budget committee must continually struggle with. It was my sense, however, that they took too narrow a view of the impact of our request. In raw numbers, their funding might only have reduced the cost of our trip from $180 to $170.
However, it’s my belief that this perspective prevented the committee from realizing that their funding was part of a much larger effort. By my estimation, a comparable four-person trip would cost about $422 per person. Our efforts to arrange group lift tickets and lodging, packouts, and OTL gas funding are what make the trip even remotely affordable, but ASPC’s funding has always been an important component of this much larger effort.
Even with the committee’s concerns about impact—which on a base level are totally legitimate—there is still the issue of expectation. I agree with the committee that in principal, clubs should not plan events assuming they’ll get money from the budget committee. However, this was not the case in our request. Despite what I view as a failure to correct our overall allocation, past budget committees had repeatedly continued to fund our requests to the point that the money effectively had become part of our operational budget. To deny us these funds would have left us with $500 less to spend on the rest of our rather extensive programming.
I was eventually able to convince the committee of this, but only after dedicating hours to my plight at a time when my attention was desperately needed to help plan Reading Days and our annual film screening, Snowstock. It was my hope that in light of this year’s drama, our overall allocation might finally be corrected.
Unfortunately, I have been given every indication that this is not the case, which is extraordinarily frustrating. As we transition to a new senate, I hope next year’s and future budget committees will be able to find a way to better communicate their expectations to student leaders, reasonably follow precedent, maintain greater transparency, and make the duties of club leaders easier, not harder.