SGA Should Offer Aid Over Club Sports

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Two recent SGA bills proposed changes to the way that existing SGA funding is distributed to student clubs. One bill, put into effect last weekend, altered an existing bill concerning management of club sports funding, removing a $1,000 budget cap that previously limited funding to newly formed club sports teams. This bill would effectively allocate existing student activity funding to new sports teams. Another bill, which has yet to take effect, calls for the existing funding to go towards providing more financial aid for students who can’t afford the travel costs that many clubs incur. (See story on page A1 for more details on the contents of the respective bills.)

Travel presents a valuable component of many student organizations’ agendas. But clubs often lack the budget to pay in full for student travel to off-campus events that constitute such valuable components of their respective missions. As a board, we believe that students should be able to enjoy the benefits of traveling for club events even if they are unable to self-fund the price of transportation, food, and other travel costs that club members so often have to pay out of their own pockets. We stand with the bill submitted on March 11 that calls for the formation of the Off Campus Food Financial Aid Program, which would provide a direct remedy to the plight faced by the students who aren’t able to pay for club travel expenses.

In a perfect world, the two aforementioned bills would be implemented simultaneously: there would be no budget cap on newly-formed club sports teams and students in need of financial aid for club trips would receive all the compensation they need. Unfortunately, there is a finite amount of SGA funding allocated to clubs. $416 of each student’s annual tuition is allocated to club funding (giving the SGA an annual budget of a little over $1 million to provide clubs) and that number would have to go up for both of these bills to be viable simultaneously. Given the already bloated (and rising) cost of tuition, the option of increasing overall funding frankly isn’t feasible.

As a board, we believe strongly that allocation of funding for student activities holds huge implications for the construction of more equitable spaces at Middlebury. Pursuit of constructing equitable spaces should be at the forefront of the SGA finance committee’s mission as it works to determine where this funding is spent. Of the two bills, we see the March 11 financial aid bill as making the greatest strides in constructing more equitable student spaces in which students are able and encouraged to pursue the activities that ignite their interests.

For all of the incredible resources that Middlebury presents us here in Vermont, leaving campus to pursue one’s interests still holds tremendous value for students. Traveling with clubs allows students access to a wealth of illuminating events such as conventions visited by J Street U, games against opponents that push athletes’ boundaries or debate competitions in nearby cities. These experiences matter and can be just as valuable to a student’s educational experience at Middlebury as classes and club events on campus. But for students who already rely on financial aid in order to study and live here in Middlebury, these trips simply aren’t accessible.

When a club’s budget is unable to cover the cost of travel to locations far away from Middlebury, wealthier students participating in club travel often pay the cost of travel themselves. This makes many clubs elitist institutions whose benefits can only be enjoyed by those who have (or whose parents have) extra money to invest in educational experiences beyond classes and residency at Middlebury. This bill presents the SGA a valuable opportunity to curtail this elitism and allow existing organizations to make all of their activities accessible to students who are interested in participating in club activities. This bill isn’t calling for more money — it’s simply asking for existing funds within the budget to go towards financial aid for travel as opposed to funding new club sports teams.

Furthermore, students often feel trapped at Middlebury in a space that is both geographically isolated and ideologically isolating for many. Being a full-time Middlebury student is exhausting and incredibly discouraging at times. Getting away from campus, especially for pursuits as constructive and valuable as those offered by clubs, is a valuable opportunity to temporarily escape the struggles of finding one’s place here. No one student should be provided that opportunity over another purely because of their wealth or their parents’ wealth.

We acknowledge that both bills are fighting for student equity and equal opportunity on campus. The bill proposing the removal of the budget cap for new club sports teams would no doubt provide increased opportunity to students looking to pursue their interests outside of the classroom. However, the financial aid bill more directly addresses a pressing situation that needs to be addressed: There are many, many spheres at Middlebury in which disparities in opportunity provided to students based specifically on class needs to be evaluated. These range from participation in secret frat activities to Atwater parties to sports formals that require fancy clothing. Club activities constitute one of these spheres, and the bill that was presented on March 11 presents a more-than-feasible solution that would have significant benefit for students who are presently prevented from joining in club activities because of their financial standing.

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SGA Should Offer Aid Over Club Sports