From art to politics to philanthropy —even juggling, there are over 200 LMU clubs (referred to as RSOs, Registered Student Organizations) on campus. Everyone’s interests, no matter how niche, can find a space to connect and celebrate what makes them unique. However, changes in ASLMU policy this year could make it much harder to keep those clubs running.
SAFAB stands for Student Activity Fee Allocation Board, and provides student organizations with financial assistance. RSOs can apply each semester for a grant to put into club events like fundraisers or buying merchandise. ASLMU states that the purpose of SAFAB is to provide financial aid to university-registered student organizations.
Ethan Stabile, ASLMU chief financial officer (CFO), said the money allotted to SAFAB “comes from the ASLMU budget, and that ASLMU budget is made up of a small percentage of the student activity fee. The student activity fee is a fund comprising students’ tuition.”
SAFAB allocation is need-based, and as the number of RSOs on campus has increased over the years, applications have become more competitive.
“Over the past few years, the amount of money SAFAB has been giving ASA has been declining,” said Fikayo Iredele treasurer of the African Student Association (ASA).
While the intention of SAFAB is to help RSOs, E-Board members of various clubs have discussed their frustration with SAFAB especially since funding has decreased.
“They [ASLMU] can’t control the decrease in funding since more clubs are being created, but it’s frustrating because we have a lot of things planned, but the school is not able to give us that funding,” said Irdele.
Irdele continues to discuss how ASA’s yearly cultural club had to cut down on a lot of items for that event because they did not get enough SAFAB funding. They even had to go through external funding resources.
“We had to use resources like a GoFundMe,” said Irdele, “Why do we have to start a GoFundMe if this school should be able to provide for that?”
Given that the point of SAFAB is to use student tuition money to fund club events, it can be frustrating when the funding students pay for is not allocated towards the events they themselves are planning and attending.
ASA is not the only club that struggles with the funding received from SAFAB. President of Isang Bansa (IB), a Filipino cultural club at LMU, Lindsay Aquino, discussed the struggles her club has faced as well.
“It was our thirtieth cultural event called Pistahan last fall 2022, and we submitted an application and got zero,” said Aquino. It was upsetting because it was a cultural event that had a lot of impact on our community…even in the spring of last year, we had Filipino Cultural Night, which was the thirty-first-year tradition and they severely cut the amount of money they gave us.”
ASLMU bylaws state, “at least twenty-five percent no more than thirty-five percent of the ASLMU budget must be allocated to the SAFAB.” In a year ASLMU allows clubs to get up to $10,000. But with some clubs like IB receiving little amount of funds, ASLMU is attempting to combat the issue with a new proposal.
This year, a new “tiered” system will be implemented, and those who have already struggled to receive funding for their club in the past, are expressing doubts. Stabile explained the logic behind the new procedure.
“The SAFAB gets together to deliberate and put a vote forth to allocate money to different clubs,” Stabile said. “The tier system is implemented to ensure that SAFAB holistically and objectively evaluates RSOS funding requests, this is a way to recognize the different traits an RSOS has like the impact, community, and its history with the university.”
When asked how ASLMU uses the tier system to give more funds to certain clubs, Stabile claimed, “We look at the inclusivity of an event like who can go to the event and scope of the audience like how many people are attending, accessibility and looking at an RSOS attempt of find an alternative source of funding.”
According to ASLMU SAFAB rubric, the way an RSO determines their funds is by scoring high on points of different sections. Some of these categories include the longevity of the event, inclusivity of the event, the scope of the audience, and many more. Some have seen the tier system as a good initiative put forth by ASLMU.
“I think the intention of the tier system is there,” said Aquino. “I definitely do believe they are trying to weigh the importance of certain RSO events.”
While this system can be seen as an improvement for SAFAB, ensuring that all clubs receive enough money to fund their activities adequately, there are fears that smaller or less established clubs, many of which cater to minorities, could be left behind.
With ASLMU using a rubric that grades clubs based on the longevity of the tradition or the scope of the audience, the possibility that these newer clubs catering to a small percentage of LMU students will receive appropriate SAFAB funding is unlikely.
Ethan Stabile says that ASLMU’s budget for SAFAB during this school year of 2023-2024 is $255,000. The Fall 2023 budget is $120,000, and the Spring 2024 budget is $135,000.
“This is ASLMU’s highest allocation budget ever both in terms of raw dollars and percentage of our budget,” Stabile said. “We [ASLMU] recognize the rising demand for SAFAB funding on campus.”
With this increased SAFAB funding, the hope is that every single RSO at LMU can receive a sufficient amount to fund impactful events. However, past years have reflected smaller RSOs receiving minimal funds, so it’s important the community pays attention to where this year’s budget, bigger than any before, is going.