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UNITY Roundtable handles close to 60% in budget cuts

THE NINE MULTICULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS that are part of UNITY Roundtable will receive less funding this year. GRAPHIC COURTESY OF the UNITY ROUNDTABLE INSTAGRAM

Drake University’s UNITY Roundtable governs nine different multicultural organizations on campus. With an aim to build inclusion and educational opportunities for the Drake community, UNITY requires funds for these organizations to host such events — and they’ve just lost up to 60% of their budget.

These organizations include InterVarsity, Interfaith at Drake, Coalition of Black Students, International Student Association, African and Caribbean Students Association, Rainbow Union, Hillel, Middle East Peace and Prosperity Alliance and La Fuerza Latina.

These organizations are able to collaborate and discuss multicultural events at UNITY meetings held every other week on Wednesday. 

“We have more audiences from different sorts of populations and [cultures] who can come and learn about different organizations, even if they’re not part of that intersectionality,” UNITY treasurer Emely Herrera said.

But, hardship comes in the form of budget cuts to registered student organizations. The cuts were announced to student organizations through an email this past October from Student Senate’s Executive Council.

Due to a decrease in student enrollment, the senate’s allocatable funds have decreased from the original estimation of $600,000 to $412,000. Though they aimed to limit budget cuts to 20%, many student organizations were impacted, including those under UNITY.

“We were kind of preparing for how much that could’ve been,” Herrera said. “When we heard it was $15,000, it was kind of shocking compared to last year, what we had.”

This amount is nothing new for UNITY, as it’s what they were allocated almost every year since becoming a governing body in 2016. Last year, they had an increased budget of $35,000, the only year they had an increased budget. 

Herrera has been the treasurer for UNITY since last year. She manages funds and records, communicates funding requests and is the go-to person if anyone has questions regarding their budget.

A UNITY organization’s budget works similarly to one-time funding on a first come, first serve basis. Organizations in UNITY can apply for funding through an open request form. However, they do also offer funding to external organizations, relative to their mission.

The UNITY Executive Council will discuss those requests with representatives for those funding requests during meetings. It’s a chance for the representatives to pitch their program to the governing body, who will cast a vote to see whether the request is accepted.

UNITY also uses funds for their own programs. One UNITY program is the Multicultural Activities Fair, which aims to bring forth their presence on campus and promote their diverse student organizations.

“All of our UNITY representatives have had to make lots of tough decisions,” Herrera said. “And so with these funding cuts of about almost 60%, we can’t fund in full anymore.”

The International Student Association hosted their annual I-Night event on Saturday, Nov. 18. It was themed “Cultural Explosion,” banding students together to celebrate a multitude of countries and cultures. The organization itself brings attention to the community of international students on campus.

“The budget cut has affected ISA as we would have to cut costs for every event we held or will be holding in the future,” ISA treasurer Hillary Tan said. “Expenses for food have been affected mostly, as it usually costs the most for our events.”

Before the budget cuts happened, ISA had $15,680. Now, their annual budget has decreased to $12,533.

As I-Night is one of their biggest events, they typically allocate 50% of their annual budget solely for it. This year, they managed to retrieve funding from UNITY as well as sponsorships to cover higher expenses, such as location and sound engineering.

“These student organizations work hard to organize these events for the students to participate,” Tan said. “If the budget cut happens again, I hope these student organizations on campus are open to collaborating to plan events together so that they could share the expenses with the funding they have.”

In addition to I-Night, they also dedicate funds to events during Welcome Week, the Mid-Autumn festival and more throughout the year, spending on food, decorations, posters and other expenses. 

And that’s been a challenge for ISA — having enough money to keep up with the events they’ve hosted in previous years. They’ve ensured that spending would stay within the budget they have to host such events so that they wouldn’t have to dip into their agency account funds. This comes alongside making sure future events have enough funds to run.

Herrera says that the organizations have been very understanding as UNITY navigates tough decisions with funding.

“Since it’s all about discussion, we ask questions, we make sure to be as open minded as possible when we ask them about what the funds are for, what is the absolute minimum that they’re asking for,” Herrera said. “We try to be very gracious on that type of thing.”

There’s a harder strain with the budget they’ve already used up as the spring semester approaches. That is when UNITY  tends to get busy with funding requests. Herrera hopes that UNITY can rebuild themselves up a little more with an increase in budget.

“If not, we have the knowledge and the experience to share with future executive members to know how to facilitate these type of funding cuts, especially from a big almost 60% decrease,” Herrera said.

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