Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Just two days before one of Swarthmore’s biggest parties of the year, the Genderfuck planners secured the last $800 necessary to pay for the party’s nearly $7,000 price tag.
Genderfuck is a go, but figuring out who foots the bill has revealed a large dysfunction in funding all-campus events.
During a meeting last week with party planners, Coordinator of Student Activies Paury Flowers urged the group to bring in an outside source for lighting and sound rather that use Swarthmore’s in-house system.
“You don’t have to have professional sound, you don’t, we have sound here that they can use, but I just don’t want there to be a situation like there was on Halloween and people go away from the party saying it was really bad because [they] couldn’t hear the $445 DJ we payed for,” Flowers said.
But that came with an additional $2,250 cost, which Flowers helped pay for with a contribution of $750 from the Dean’s Office. Yet that left the group $800 short just a week before the party.
When the planners submitted a proposal for extra funding to the Student Budgeting Committee (SBC), it was denied since requests are supposed to be submitted no less than two weeks before an event.
“For SBC, the issue was getting the request just a week before without a discussion or a warning about what happened,” SBC Chairperson Amelia Mitter-Burke ’12 said. “I think everybody involved has an explanation about why that happened, but I’m still not clear. For SBC, at least last weekend, this was out of nowhere, and just a week before the event.”
SBC encouraged the planners to try to find other sources of funding and then resubmit their proposal if they were unsuccessful. SBC was able to approve the proposal yesterday and transferred enough money from Student Activities Committee’s (SAC) budget for “performances” to “all-campus events” to fund the rest of the cost.
While Genderfuck was able to obtain all the necessary funds, short notice requests put SBC in a difficult situation.
“We always want to fund what students are planning,” Mitter-Burke said. However, when funding proposals are submitted within two weeks of the event, Mitter-Burke says SBC feels pressured to say yes without being able to offer modifications that could save money. “We feel pushed to say yes because we don’t want to kill the event. It puts us in a position of yes or no. It’s makes it a dichotomy of fund the event or not rather than us being a resource for funding and figuring out funding.”
This isn’t the first time this year that SBC has found itself having to fund a large budget in less than a week. This type of issue also arose this year with the Yule Ball.
“There was miscommunication and the deans were not funding [Yule Ball] this year, but they still wanted it to happen, so the same thing came up this year. One or two weeks before the event we had a very large sum that we had to approve, and it wasn’t something we had any say in because otherwise [the Ball] wouldn’t happen,” said SBC Member Linda Hou ’13.
Mitter-Burke said SBC has been in communication with Flowers and Associate Dean for Student Life Myrt Westphal over the course of the year to try to find a better way for different sources of funders to communicate. As far as Genderfuck, Mitter-Burke says the difficulty in securing funding well in advance reflects more issues between SBC, SAC, and the Dean’s Office than on the planning committee.
“There’s not a centralized conversation who’s covering what. A lot of times it works out. There’s things we know we both fund and it works out, but there’s a problem when each of the sources won’t fund to the maximum,” said Mitter-Burke.
Last week, Lauren Stern ’12 joined the planning committee and stepped up to get Genderfuck’s funding back on track.
“I really think it’s an organizational problem more than anything else,” said Stern, who wants to created a protocol for organizing large events to avoid pitfalls like these.
“SBC was frustrated because they set up a series of meetings with Paury to make sure this didn’t happen again and it happened again, and so everybody was left feeling frustrated. This could be solved with better communication,” said Stern.
While Stern said the group never expected the Deans to pay a large sum of money for the event, they hoped that Flowers would cover the cost of sound and lighting, since it was purchased on her recommendation. But Flowers said she’s not working with anything near SBC’s budget allocation.
“[The Dean’s Office] is almost tapped out for the year from helping all kinds of things,” Flowers said. “I understand that people have an opinion, but SBC has more money than I do.”
Part of the problem, Planner Callie Feingold ’12 said, is that the budget has not been increased since the party moved from Olde Club and the Frats to Sharples, which costs $3,100 to rent for the night. Most of that cost, Feingold says, comes from moving tables and cleaning the space the next day.
According to Stern, SAC has $5000 set aside for each large campus-wide event such as Genderfuck. But with the cost of Sharples and the cost of lighting and sound, the planning committee had little left to use for the DJ, decorations, and refreshments.
“If Sharples were free like every other space on campus, we would be able to ensure so many more things,” said Genderfuck Planner Kenneson Chen ’14. “We’d be able to have more awesome performances, more intense decorations, better food and drink.”
And yet Flowers says students are not aware of the hidden costs associated with the party, such as an increased number of Public Safety officers and Worth staff.
“What’s unique about our institution is that we don’t nickel and dime one another, stuff just gets taken care of,” Flower said. “In a way, it makes it difficult to pull apart that there are real costs associated with that.”
Nonetheless Genderfuck Planner Tania Doles ’12 said she would like to see more support from the Dean’s Office in the future.
“We have usually one or two events a semester that are like the big ones, wholesale, everyone’s invited […] that being the Halloween party, Yule Ball, [and] for the spring semester it has traditionally been Genderfuck,” Doles said.
“The deans need to respond to what students want,” she said.
Mitter-Burke and Flowers say they have meetings scheduled next week to discuss how to more effectively manage budgeting between the two, and better fund various student programs and events.