Approximately 1,500 students participate in the 41 club sports at the University of Oregon each year, but funding issues this year mean many may not be able to attend their end-of-year national competitions.
In early February, Club Sports requested $50,000 from ASUO’s surplus fund to subsidize various club teams’ trips to national competitions. ASUO had granted Club Sports’ surplus request for each of the past four years, which is why Club Sports was surprised when ASUO President Quinn Haaga vetoed the proposal after it passed in the senate.
Haaga vetoed the request because she thought it was more appropriate for Club Sports to factor nationals expenditures into its annual budget, rather than ask for money out of the surplus. But Club Sports representatives say Haaga did not help them figure out a plan before vetoing the request, in turn sending them scrambling to scrape together funds and putting the ability to go to nationals in jeopardy.
Now, two months later, Club Sports still hasn’t compromised with ASUO, but it is considering going back to the senate and asking for around $15,000 instead of $50,000. In its original request, Club Sports attempted to get ASUO to cover 50 percent of its airfare costs, instead of the 25 percent it had previously agreed upon. Club Sports had been steadily increasing its request each of the past few years, and ASUO members say it was overestimating the funds it actually needed.
As fallout from the issue, Club Sports participants will likely pay more money out of pocket to get to nationals and potentially dip into pre-allocated funds for each team, a move that would leave little money for teams stuck in a similar predicament next year. Club Sports is also considering asking EMU Board, the body that oversees it, to pull funds from other organizations to support its nationals endeavors.
When asked about working with Club Sports’ new request, Haaga said, “I have not had the chance to talk to Club Sports about their new request, so I would not feel comfortable answering questions about it.”
Reaction to the Veto
On Feb. 23, Club Sports brought 120 people to an ASUO meeting to persuade the senate to overturn Haaga’s veto of its $50,000 funding request. The senate was undecided, so the veto stayed.
Former Senate President Max Burns said another factor in play was that Club Sports kept asking for more and more money that it didn’t necessarily need.
“If you have an allowance, and you keep spending over your allowance and keep coming back for more and more … eventually your dad is going to say no,” Burns said. “That’s an argument of the many, internally, in the senate.”
Club Sports representatives, however, argue that they have spent the money responsibly and that they can’t add the cost of nationals to its annual budget because doing so would mean every UO student would have to pay more in incidental fees, something EMU Board Chair Erika Goto said the EMU Board does not want to do. The incidental fee is a fee that all students pay, and it goes to supporting student groups around campus.
Without the money, Club Sports members would have to pay even more out of pocket than they already do. Club Sports Advisory Board Member Emi Purice, a member of the rowing team, estimated it would be close to $700 per student for the rowing team to go to nationals in Gainesville, Georgia.
Over four years, rowing built its own backup fund of $42,000 through independent fundraising, which will be drawn from to help lower the cost to $350 per athlete. But not every club has been able to build a similar fund, and if issues between ASUO and Club Sports continue, rowing may not be able to pull from a fund like this again.
After its request was vetoed, Club Sports continued to work with ASUO executives to try and compromise. No compromise was reached, and Purice and Club Sports Advisory Board Co-Chair Bridget Shepherd felt disrespected throughout the process.
“There is no respect. There is nothing,” Purice said. “We’re sitting there going, ‘please work with us; we’re trying to work with you.’”
Shepherd added that the relationship between Club Sports and ASUO “is as strained as it’s ever been, by far.”
Burns states that some ASUO members feel as though Club Sports has not been handling its money well. Burns claims, “If they’re overspending past their own procedure, how much of that problem that they have now could have been avoided if they had been good financial stewards of the past?”
When the disagreement was discussed during negotiations, according to Purice, it became especially personal.
“The way we were treated was so unprofessional,” Purice said. “One of the senators was just head down, yelling at us, saying, ‘I can handle the money better than you guys can.’ [They] didn’t want to look at us or answer any questions.”
Getting to Nationals
Club Sports is in the midst of gathering accurate information on travel costs, which involves planning airline prices, lodging, rental cars and other various expenses.
Gathering the specifics is an inherently difficult task. Money for nationals is given by the Advisory Board on a first-come, first-served basis, and some clubs won’t know if they’ve qualified for nationals until later this spring.
Club Sports is working with the EMU Board on ways to find funding. The EMU Board will help Club Sports once they “have done some number crunching,” says EMU Board Chair Erika Goto.
The approximate $35,000 gap between the first request and the second request was filled in large part by withdrawing money from pre-allocated funds, according to Club Sports Advisory Board Co-Chair Brenda Heng. That is, Club Sports will take some amount of money from each club that is given to annually through the EMU budget and the incidental fee. The funds do not include the dues that members pay each year or fundraising.
Typically, the leftover money will roll back into the Club Sports budget. Starting next year, the clubs will receive similar amounts of money from the yearly budget and incidental fee, but because Club Sports may have this problem again next year, it could be forced to repeat similar action.
ASUO president-elect Amy Schenk stated that if there was another funding request from Club Sports next year, she could not give a definite answer on what she would do.
“I’ll probably just take it by ear, communicating with the finance committees and EMU board and their budget,” Schenk said. “I want to provide myself with a holistic view of what’s going on, so that’s also talking with Club Sports.”
Although all the funds aren’t there, Club Sports teams will continue its efforts to go to nationals; however, the cost of travel could prohibit students from attending national competitions.
It remains unclear how Club Sports will attain the remaining funds, or what ASUO’s future role in the issue will be.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917