In the Fall 2020 semester, the Student Organizations Funding Committee received a historically low number of application requests due to restrictions placed on student organization events because of COVID-19. SOFC is a part of the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government Student Organizations Committee, which provides consulting services and funding to student organizations on campus.
SOFC accepted funding applications in nine waves from Sept. 9 until Nov. 4 in Fall 2020. In total, SOFC received funding requests for about $218,977.69 in Fall 2020 and awarded a total of $86,487.46 to student organizations.
LSA junior Christopher Sandler, director of the Student Organizations Committee, said that some student organizations that applied did not receive the funding they requested because they were incompliant with the Center for Campus Involvement’s COVID-19 events guidelines.
In Fall 2020, SOFC saw a decline in funding requests, receiving only 173 funding requests from student organizations compared to the 401 funding requests received in Winter 2020.
According to LSA senior Taylor Lansey, head chair of SOFC, this decrease in funding requests can be attributed to the pandemic. She explained that in the first six phases of Winter 2020 applications, SOFC received between 40 and 80 applications in each phase. In the last three phases of SOFC applications of Winter 2020, which occurred after University classes moved online due to COVID-19, SOFC received only about 20 applications each phase.
Sandler attributed this decline in funding requests to virtual classes and fewer students being on campus in Fall 2020.
“When we have people on campus gatherings all the time, SOFC will see a number of applications come in because SOFC primarily funds events,” Sandler said. “Because a lot of things went virtual, a large population of the campus stayed at home and did not come back to campus, (so) there were fewer events to fund.”
Lansey also said that there was a decrease in funding requests because student organizations were finding it difficult to hold events that followed CCI’s COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. She said SOFC created the Pre-Approved Virtual Events Campaign to encourage student organizations to host more virtual events.
“(SOFC) aims to give organizations ideas for events they can have that cost more money than they have in their budget (while) guaranteeing that (SOFC) will be able to give them funds,” Lansey said. “We’re looking to expand this in the winter semester so there are more events we can offer funding for.”
Lansey said SOFC conducted more personalized outreach campaigns to increase the number of funding requests received. She said that SOFC’s office hours have helped bring in new organizations that have not asked for funding requests in the past.
“We have emailed every single organization on campus multiple times,” Lansey said. “I’ve walked (organizations) through applications, helped them plan out their funding schedules and stuff like that.”
The Muslim Students’ Association was one of the student organizations that received funding from SOFC in Fall 2020. MSA holds religious services such as weekly prayer on Fridays and religious sermons led by outside speakers. The association applied for and received funding to host a Black and African Muslim history event.
LSA sophomore Hadeel Abulenin, treasurer of the MSA, said SOFC’s weekly application process has been helpful to student organizations because it gives them the chance to apply for funding at any point in the semester. She said SOFC office hours are helpful to student organizations looking for funding.
“From my experience, CSG is very helpful,” Abulenin said. “They are very responsive. If I email them or ask them a question I hear back in a very timely manner.”
Lansey said the number of applications SOFC receives in Winter 2021 will depend on the number of students on campus, especially since the University is allowing fewer students back into residence halls. She said the weather might make it harder for student organizations to host outdoor events and will prevent outdoor sports practices, causing a further drop in funding requests.
Lansey said SOFC is looking to plan more outreach campaigns to promote organizations into applying for funding.
“I’m hoping that the requests do go up a little bit as we increase our virtual campaign and we span it across the entire semester,” Lansey said. “This year the campaign was only for the last two waves whereas we’ll be expanding it next semester so that more organizations will have the opportunity to plan and utilize that.”
Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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