Undergraduate Student Government’s General Assembly engaged in an intense debate over funding student organizations after Fishbowl Improv appealed an Allocations Committee decision Wednesday.
After filing a request for $1,500 to help fund the Tides Comedy Festival — an annual event held by the group — Fishbowl received only $750 and filed an appeal to receive additional funding.
A bill to overturn the decision was up for discussion Wednesday with a representative from Fishbowl speaking before the General Assembly. The discussion over the bill led to an intense discussion about how student organizations should be funded and ultimately with the Allocations Committee’s budgeting being called into question.
The bill to allocate Fishbowl an additional $250, sponsored by USG President Shamina Merchant, failed 13-15 in a secret ballot vote.
Alyssa Hopkins, Fishbowl’s treasurer, said that the organization needed additional funding to help pay professional comedians hired to perform at the comedy festival and budgeted the event based on the expectation that USG would provide the full requested funding.
“We definitely appreciate the awards that were funded, but like I said, it kind of put us in a weird, bad position,” Hopkins said.
Student organizations can ask USG for up to $1,500 per semester, according to their website. Most allocations for organizations come from a portion of the student activity fee that every student pays.
Fishbowl does not charge fees to its 18 members, and all but one of its shows are free, as its mission statement is “bringing free comedy to Ohio State’s campus,” Hopkins said.
Chase Barnett, senior director of the Allocations Committee, said that allocations’ budget had been cut from $20,000 to $15,000, causing the committee to fill only half of each organizations’ requests this quarter due to the large amount of funding requests received.
“The week that Fishbowl came in was the last week we were able to do half,” Barnett said. “We started cutting it down to about a third of what [organizations] were requesting so we could try and fund as many organizations as possible.”
Hopkins said that if she had known that allocations’ budget had been cut, she would have adjusted her request. Last year, she said Fishbowl received all of the money it requested for the same event.
“If I had known that there were lessened funds — and I don’t know if that didn’t come up until later — I probably wouldn’t have asked for $1,500,” Hopkins said. “I probably would’ve asked for less and budgeted differently.”
The Allocations Committee denied Fishbowl’s request on Jan. 27, and the comedy festival took place Feb. 1 and 2. This is the only time Fishbowl has asked for funding this academic year, according to Hopkins.
USG Senator Cade Santha strongly advocated for Fishbowl to receive the rest of the requested funding, citing the diverse representation the improv group provides and the kind of precedent that denying the request would set.
“This is also an opportunity to make a precedent that USG is interested in serving students and listening to them when they are coming for appeals,” Santha said.
Santha also called for a reevaluation of how money is budgeted for student organizations, and he argued that the committee should anticipate quarters that historically have an influx of funding requests.
“I don’t think it’s very fair if we know that a ton of students organizations [are] coming in the spring, why aren’t we limiting our other quarters?” Santha said. “As senators, I challenge all of you to take a look at the budget and make sure that you’re comfortable with how money is being spent and to make sure that all of your constituents would be okay with how the money is being spent.”
Parliamentarian Caleb Hineman said that interesting points were made during the debate that should be investigated.
“Commitment without cash is counterfeit,” Hineman said. “I know more often than not, we questions things and then we do nothing after that, so it would be very interesting to see what that might look like with allocations and how funding works. “