Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

SGA and student organizations clash over funding issues

SGA+and+student+organizations+clash+over+funding+issues
Jake Mireles

The Student Government Association (SGA) runs a reimbursement program entitled the Leaderfund. Its main purpose is to provide financial support for registered student organizations that “host events or participate in activities that provide leadership development or learning opportunities for students or contribute to an increased sense of campus community.” All funds are allocated to organizations via the SGA. While the program’s goal may be to help student organizations, some student organizations have come to The Paisano with concerns. 

The Paisano spoke to the President of the Secular Student Alliance, Clara Clasen, about their issues with receiving their funds from the program. 

“[Secular Student Alliance] had gone to the National Conference in June, right, and we’d submitted to the fund for that. I applied for the Leaderfund to reimburse us for that at the beginning of October, and it was approved on Dec. 6. So I asked, when can I expect the funds to go to our customer account, it was like a couple of weeks, then my withdrawal request gets denied,” Clasen said. “I’m asking why we got denied, and they’re [saying] the treasurer quit so [they’re] behind and [are] working on it. So I waited a while, and then I submitted another request that was still pending. It’s been pending for like the last month or so.” 

Alongside the pending funds, the Secular Student Alliance has claimed that communication between them and the university has not been clear.

“I’ve emailed them since then, or when I’ve sent questions in I just get ignored. They don’t respond. The money was supposed to be [used] so that we can go to the conference here coming up in June, but the deadline to register for that is April 30,” Clasen said. “We don’t know if we’re gonna get some money in time to go to [our leadership conference].”

Every June, the Secular Student Alliance attends a leadership conference. Last year, they used money from the Leaderfund to pay for their trip, but this year they have doubts about whether they will be able to attend in time.

“[We attend a] leadership conference for the Secular Student Alliance every year in Little Rock, Arkansas. We go there and it’s a bunch of workshops on how to better run our organization and how to be an effective leader and do effective fundraising campaigns. It’s going to be from June 14 to 16, I believe,” Clasen said. “But yeah, we have to register to go by April 30. And we’re not registered.” 

“We might be able to fundraise enough to go because we’re doing a fundraiser for that. But like, we shouldn’t have to do that. We should be able to have the funds because we submitted the form and did everything like we’re supposed to,” Clasen said. “We were able to get it before, that’s how we paid for the last one.”

With the ongoing complications, Clasen aired her frustrations with SGA and their promotion of Leaderfund.

“The SGA president spoke in front of a student body dress and he was like, ‘apply for the leaderfund. There’s money; all you have to do is apply,’ and I [thought] why are you even promoting it right now if you can’t even follow through with it,” said Clasen. “And then we’re talking about how we’re gonna get this big monument downtown. They’re talking about all this other stuff that they wanted to do, and it doesn’t seem so important compared to their other responsibilities.”

While the delay in payments is affecting the operations of the Secular Student Alliance, other student organizations have allegedly had the same problems.  

“As far as I know, nobody’s gotten paid at all. Every organization I have come across I’ve asked them about it, and they’re like, ‘No, we haven’t gotten it either,’” Clasen said. “I talked to other organizations and they said they’re getting the same treatment, [for example] I talked to the President of Women in STEM.” 

The Paisano also spoke with the President of Women in STEM (WIS) Megan Brown, on whether their organization has experienced similar issues with the Leaderfund. Brown expressed that WIS was deterred from applying for the Leaderfund because of the issues other organizations have had with it. 

“We had considered it but hearing the difficulties that other student orgs were having deterred us. We are a relatively small student org still rebuilding. With this in mind, and hearing the stories from others, we were deterred from applying because we really cannot wait months to receive funds,” Brown said. “We already waited almost two months for a withdrawal request for our cost center to help us cover funds for preparing for [Dia en la Sombrilla] and be able to provide programming for our members.”

Brown added that they have also experienced a lack of clarity about the Leaderfund. “I will say that in our experience when trying to understand what Leaderfund is and how to apply, it’s been relatively unclear. When asked for more clarification, we have just been directed back to the website, which is sort of unclear.”

While the Leaderfund is not necessarily a new endeavor, the issues began this academic year. The Paisano had the opportunity to speak with SGA President Zachary Nepote to hear what is happening behind the scenes.

“There has been administrative errors with the Leaderfund request, we had a turnover with our treasurer role. And so with a turnover of that role, the university had to assume those duties and get the paperwork processed,” Nepote said. “Apparently, it was processed improperly. We’ve been in contact with these organizations and we’ve expressed our apologies for this delay and bureaucratic error, but it just highlights what being in a student work is like. It takes time and takes patience, but we’re excited to get that money out and we hope that more [student organizations] apply.”

“We’re working with the director of the Student Involvement Center to clear up the holdup in the funds and get them out there,” Nepote stated. “It’s just you know, everything at universities is really bureaucratic and slow. The time frames are not as quick as we might see in the private sector, in other fields or even in our classes.”

The Paisano contacted the Student Involvement Center in an attempt to shed more light on the issues and what is being done to alleviate them, but they failed to comment. 

Alongside the Leaderfund, student organizations have noted that they have been facing issues with BestFest fund disbursement as well. 

Secular Student Alliance noted they were originally notified that funds would be available on Feb. 12, but when the time came their withdrawal request was denied by the university.

Last semester, we raised funds at BestFest. [We] sold tickets there at the festival, and they would take a certain number of tickets for which we’re selling right? So we raised $242, right, at best. So that was supposed to be deposited into our account center for [the] cost center account when they finished counting them. I was told that [it]  took them most of the semester to finish, and they finished at the beginning of December. So they said after that it was supposed to just happen shortly after that you would be available. So it started getting to like, [the] middle of January, [so we] started asking ‘where are the funds?’ [because] they hadn’t been deposited yet. [They] were like ‘Oh, it’s coming’ or ‘we don’t have a specific date, but we’re working on it,’” Clasen said. 

“So I’d submitted [a] balance and fees withdrawal [request] for the BestFest funds, and on February 1, they told me that they would be sending out a notice pretty soon and that it would have a specific date. So Student Activity sent out a newsletter stating that on February 12, everybody would get the funds in their accounts that are available for withdrawal. Well, they just left my withdrawal requests pending and [then it] got denied on March 25. For ‘insufficient funds.’”

She continued, “They owe Secular Student Alliance a total of $992 [between Leaderfund and BestFest funds] alone, so this is many thousands of dollars they are withholding from student organizations. When we inquire when we can expect the funds to be deposited in our cost center accounts we are ignored or outright lied to.”

WIS also reported having issues accessing funds that the organization helped raise during BestFest last semester.  

We did participate in BestFest. We have not received funds from that event,” said Brown. “We made a significant amount that could help us with improving some of our programs to attract more members. However, we’ve been forced to figure out alternative methods of funding.”

If students are a part of an organization and are having issues, they are encouraged to voice their concerns to SGA by completing the SGA General Feedback Form, or can reach out to the Paisano. To stay informed on Leaderfund and the ongoing story, refer to paisano-online.com.

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About the Contributors
Malaki Lingg, Web Editor
Malaki (he/they) is a third-year Digital Communication student at UTSA. He is originally from Nevada but has lived in the Austin area for most of his life. When not writing for The Paisano you will most likely find him thrifting, gardening or attending a concert. This is his fifth semester with The Paisano and his second as an editor.
Jake Mireles, Opinion Editor
Jake (He/Him) is a second-year political science major at UTSA. Originally from Austin, he plans to move anywhere but Texas after graduation. If he is not climbing out from under a mountain of homework, you can usually find him listening to podcasts, playing saxophone or being an avid napper. This is his third-semester writing for the Paisano and his second semester serving as the Opinion Editor. He is excited for many to come while he explores a possible career path in journalism.

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