Saturday, October 08, 2005

Funding For Dummies

"[Northwestern] College Democrats brought [James] Carville to speak in Cahn auditorium with funds from the $60,000 allotted by the Student Activities Finance Board for the group’s fall speakers. The organization will use the remaining funds to bring another speaker later this quarter, [College Democrats President Jenna] Carls said."

In my short career as a college student and member of the Unviersity of Wisconsin College Republicans, I've come to the realization that the only way to accomplish anything is to diversify spending of the funds allotted by the school. This money comes from hard-working students and their families, and to use them as egregiously as the Northwestern College Democrats have is absurd. During the presidential election last year, the UW College Republicans spent all their funds on events for members, students, etc. with under 10% going toward speakers. What must be understood is that while it may be good publicity to bring in a marquee name like Carville, it has nowhere near the effect of using those funds for dozens of more visible events that will engage the entire student body as opposed to a fraction.

The reality is that speaker events only tend to attract a few protestors or people of different viewpoints. And they tend to stay outside, which is important because passersby see them and not the speaker. However, the people that do get into the event are normally all agreeing with what is being said, and even if they don't agree, will likely have no effect on anyone in the room with their comments or questions. The most important thing to do with student funds is to use them for student-oriented events in hopes of changing a few minds or gaining support for your group. Also, students tend to appreciate this inclusiveness when they are paying for it. What they don't appreciate is the use of their money for speakers like Michael Moore who may attract a large crowd, but mostly just attract hatred and controversy and have no effect whatsoever.

If groups on campus want to bring in speakers, I suggest they fund them from outside sources. There are many rich individuals who have specific ideologies and would love nothing more than to donate a few thousand dollars to your group to fund a speaker in exchange for a trinket such as an award bearing their name. This frees up student funds for small-time events and allows your group to bring in any speaker you want without having to deal with biased funding sources like a student finance committee. But most important, it gives you name recognition with high-dollar donors. These individuals will make it very easy for your group to bring in any speaker regardless of cost.

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