United States Student Association loses funding due to low membership, lack of results

The ASUO Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee unanimously decided to defund the United States Student Association after seeing a lack of on-campus results.

The USSA, a student-led grassroots advocacy group, received $28,540 inthe last fiscal year, but ACFC members did not see significant on-campus impact warranting continued funding, ACFC chair Andrew Dunn said. With little visible benefit, ACFC decided to pull the plug.

ACFC member-at-large Allison Wieder said it was an uphill battle for the group to receive any funding. The group needed to implement significant changes to its organization regarding membership participation and leadership to demonstrate how it would benefit the entire university.

Wieder said the most striking thing about USSA was its low membership. When consulting the USSA about its budget request, she told the group it was essential to bring as many students as possible to the meeting to show their support. Only two members showed up.

“It truly showed that USSA did not care about receiving funding and did not take the budget hearing process seriously,” Wieder said.

The USSA has tried in the past to fix its membership problem through reorganizing and restructuring the program to focus on local issues rather than national, but Wieder said the group has made no progress in the last three years and that it has regressed to fewer members.

Amy Schenk, the ASUO federal affairs commissioner that worked with the USSA, said she was disheartened that ACFC decided to defund the group. The USSA provides opportunities for students to organize campaigns to benefit fellow students such as tuition transparency and sending students to conferences to help develop leadership skills.

“[USSA] provides resources to students and those resources will be diminished. [It] still plans to operate on campus, but it is a big blow to its accessibility for students,” Schenk said.

USSA Board Director Gabrielle Hanley respects the decision the ACFC made, but it was difficult for her to have the group defunded.

“I wouldn’t be the organizer that I am today without the USSA,” Hanley said.

Despite the low membership, Hanley has seen growth in student involvement this year and hopes it will continue to increase as the group focuses on local-level campaigns. She is optimistic that the USSA will be able to regain funding.

“We lost our student base and we couldn’t show that we deserved the funding; however, I truly believe that our student base will grow again,” Hanley said.

Despite being defunded, the group will continue to operate and help organize campaigns, but its capacity to go beyond that will be reduced, Hanley said.

Dunn said the additional funds from defuding USSA and ACFC’s total spending decrease of .06 percent will be reinvested into the Programs Finance Committee, which oversees and funds student groups.

“In a year where we really want to emphasize funding for programs, that money going back to students directly involved on campus is really invaluable,” Dunn said.

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Miles Trinidad

Miles Trinidad

Miles Trinidad is an Opinion Columnist for the Emerald focusing on politics, social policy and economics. Prior to joining the Opinion Desk, Trinidad was a reporter and covered student groups and ASUO for the Emerald from 2015-2016 and contributed to Flux Magazine in 2017.

Trinidad has worked in political campaigns, non-profit political advocacy, and a legislative and communication role for a U.S. senator.

Trinidad is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in political science, economics, and journalism.