According to the constitution of the Monroe Park Campus Student Body of VCU, “It shall be the mission of the Monroe Park Campus Student Government Association to uphold and respond to the demands and wishes of the Student Body they serve including the allotment of funds for student organizations.” It does not say they have to do it in a timely manner.
A little bit of background: I am president of the Cosplay Club at VCU. Cosplay is short for “costume roleplay” and consists of dressing up as characters from TV, movies, books and video games, often in outfits constructed by the wearer. The group was founded during the summer of 2013, after my freshman year when I met other cosplayers at school and we wanted to create a formal network. The group has been one of the best parts of my time as a student and how I have met some of my closest friends.
It took until Feb. 2014 for us to receive operational funding, which we requested originally in September. At this point I was well in the middle of an 18-credit semester and we had already planned for club activities for the rest of the year. We were unable to actually receive the materials we requested until it was almost finals time.
The finance office explained that the SGA was running behind this year, and that there was nothing they could do about it — a line we heard many times in the months to follow.
Fall of 2014 started out better. We were awarded operational funding and travel funding to attend Nekocon, an anime convention in Hampton Roads. Club members attended to cosplay, attend panels, photograph and more. However, we were only approved a month before the travel, which gave us very little time to choose who would attend and complete the paperwork that had to be submitted 30 business days before the event. We also were required to pay the cost of the hotel upfront — a new policy this year.
We submitted the application for travel funding for Katsucon 2015, which takes place Valentine’s Day weekend, on Feb. 13-15. We waited for our appropriations hearing through winter break. Then our event was a month away, with no indication that the SGA had even looked at our request.
When I emailed the appropriations chair of the SGA about our issue, they replied (after four days, multiple emails, and contact through Facebook) that they knew about us but did not give us a time slot in their meeting to look at our travel request. The SGA committee that votes to approve funding requests only meets on Fridays, which meant if we weren’t able to find out that week, we would have to wait until the last Friday of January, two weeks before the event.
When I went into the Friday meeting on the advice of a classmate who had faced similar issues, I was told I would be given a decision by the end of the day. However, I did not receive any word that night. The next day I reached out again through Facebook, and was told the funding had been approved. I finally received official confirmation on Jan. 26, less than 20 days before the event.
We are all students, and have a lot to handle, but everyone who chose to run for the SGA agreed to a time commitment and agreed to listen to the needs of students. If voting on time-sensitive materials is pushed off until the funds are of little benefit to clubs, the student body is being disserviced. Many other club leaders I have talked to have experienced the same issues, and many have given up on using the funding that we are supposedly entitled to.
The SGA as it is cannot be held accountable for its lack of actions, the finance office can do nothing to expedite the process of voting. Instead of voting as a group once a week, the SGA could easily divide and conquer the requests that they allow to pile up. There are so many actions that could be taken to remedy this process, and something must be done. I encourage others who have had issues to please speak up, and let it be known that this is not an isolated incident.