Groups offered aid amid financial crisis

The Women and Gender Equity Center, staring down the barrel of an impending financial crisis this year, got a bit of a lifeline thrown its way on Monday.

The center could see its money pot dry up soon after WAGE missed a deadline last semester to turn in paperwork to receive funding through Student Senate. A pair of other financially strapped entities – Counseling Services and the Center for Alcohol Studies and Education – also missed the application cut-off date and are in danger of either losing funding or remaining underfunded.

Senate voted 18-4 to extend the deadline to Oct. 1 – essentially giving the groups a second chance to turn in paperwork to the Senate Finance Commission.

But the decision to shift the deadline is no guarantee that any of the three entities will actually receive funding through Senate next year. All three must get approval from the Finance Commission and then compete against other organizations for segregated fees in late October.

“With the passing of this we’re not allowing or guaranteeing the funding of these programs,” Senate Treasurer Mike Umhoefer said. “We’re allowing the Finance Commission to look at these programs for the next fiscal year.”

Some senators voiced concern that a deadline shift could set a bad precedent for other organizations seeking funding in the future.

“I think these are really great programs,” said Senator Abou Amara, who voted against moving the deadline, “but we have to think about the principle. There has to be some accountability.”

Senator Jake Johnson, who also dissented, said he didn’t understand why Senate was “bailing out organizations.”

This isn’t the first time WAGE has come against financial crisis, said Tom Holton, director of the Finance Commission.

The center, which was established several years ago, initially was funded by differential tuition dollars, he said. When that funding expired, however, the center had to scramble to find a new source of money to survive.

The center was saved by a one-year funding deal in which a pair of administration offices promised to support the center with leftover university budget money for the 2008-09 school year, Holton said. That deal will expire at the end of this year, but WAGE has yet to locate new funding for next year.

Senate Vice President Meghan Charlier said WAGE has been “searching and searching for funding,” but has so far turned up nothing and is in need of a last-ditch effort to apply for segregated fees.

“It’s important to realize that they’ve done a lot of work to find the money,” Charlier said, “and it really isn’t there.”

CASE had originally been funded through a grant but is now struggling to find replacement funds after its grant expired recently.

“The problem with grants is they’re wonderful while you have them and then they come to an end,” said Beth Hellwig, vice chancellor of Student Affairs. “And you’ve created all these important programs and then if you don’t have the money to sustain them, what do you do at that point?”

While Hellwig said WAGE may currently be in a more dire position than CASE, she said both organizations are in danger of crashing if they don’t resolve their financial problems soon.

Counseling Services, on the other hand, is under no immediate threat of closure, Hellwig said, but could merely use more funding to expand its services to students.

Holton agreed Counseling Services isn’t threatened as much as the other two organizations.

“Counseling Services is really in a different boat,” he said. “They in fact might not even apply for segregated fee funding this year. They are merely underfunded and Senate would like to increase the Counseling Services’ funding to expand its operations to be more accommodating of students.”