Last spring, the Student Budget Committee (SBC) drastically cut funding for many Swarthmore club teams. The men’s and women’s Ultimate (frisbee) teams received just 40% and 23% of their requested budgets, respectively. Meanwhile, Mother Puckers, the non-competitive ice hockey team that brings Swarthmore students of all skill levels to play at a nearby rink twice a week, was allotted a full 100% of its requested budget (which was larger than all of the club sports teams’ budgets, with the exception of Fencing), the men’s rugby team received 70% of its requested funding and the women’s rugby team’s budget was not reduced.
Women’s Ultimate co-captain, Anna Levine ‘12, is concerned that both new and returning players will suffer as a consequence of the restricted budget. Instead of the nearly $21,000 budget that the team requested for 2011-2012, which, according to Levine, is similar to the amount that the team has been awarded in the past, the allocation of less than $7,000 hinders the team’s ability to compete at a high level of play. The team’s only formal competition occurs at tournaments, where returning players can be challenged and new players have a chance to learn how Ultimate is played. “Tournaments are a necessity, not a luxury,” says Levine, who added that SBC discussed capping the number of tournaments that a team could compete in.
The most troubling change to the budget for many men’s and women’s Ultimate players is the elimination of funding for the spring break training trip. On this trip, both teams practice for about six hours a day during the week and participate in tournaments on the weekends. Sam Hirshman, men’s Ultimate player and last year’s team treasurer, says that the funding for the spring break was initially granted until SBC made the decision not to fund an activity that took place entirely while classes were not in session if it was not included in the group’s charter. Without a spring break trip, Hirshman says, “I think our team’s performance will suffer because we won’t have the chemistry, fitness, and time playing together that are necessary to do well.” Both teams are now scrambling to find alternate funding to make sure the spring break trip, a tradition that defines the Ultimate experience at Swarthmore, happens this year.
While SBC’s chairperson did not respond to requests for comment, member Jesse Dashefsky spoke with Daily Gazette reporter Angela Meng last spring after the committee had decided to rein in the spending of club sports teams. “[The] soaring expenses of club sports…present the greatest burden on the budget besides focus funding committees (FFS, SAC, etc.). Club sports request a lot of funding for travel and lodging expenses,” he said. In order to try and close the gap between the amount of funding that club sports get and the amount that cultural groups get, the cap for dinners and “special projects” for cultural groups was raised by $200 during spring budgeting. According to Dashefsky, this is “a step in the right direction, but the disparity is barely offset by the increase.”
When a representative of women’s Ultimate expressed concern to SBC over the cuts, Levine says the members of SBC suggested that the team fundraise to make up the difference. While many Swarthmore teams engage in fundraising, including varsity sports teams, the prospect of raising $10,000 is daunting. While Levine acknowledges that fundraising is a great way to raise money, men’s Ultimate player, junior Jackson Goodman, sees a fundamental problem with club sports teams asking family, friends, faculty, and particularly other students for money to supplement their costs. “The philosophy of the Swarthmore Students Activities Fee is that once a student pays this blanket amount as part of his or her yearly tuition, on-campus costs are essentially taken care of. When clubs and teams are forced to fundraise by soliciting other students for money, people are then paying an extra cost on top of the Student Activites Fee just to help these groups exist.”
Some clubs, on the other hand, are thriving thanks to the SBC’s budgeting decisions. “We were able to attend our first tournament ever last spring with financial support from SBC,” said former co-president of women’s rugby, Andi Merritt. While the women’s rugby team uses fundraising and member dues to fill any gaps between their budget and the cost of equipment, they could not pay their expensive yearly registration fee without the funds dispersed by SBC. Representatives from the men’s rugby team, which faced significant cuts at last year’s spring budgeting, declined to comment on their current financial situation.
For now, members of teams that have had their budgets cut have begun sending soliciting donations from friends and supporters. Many hope that they will be able to persuade the SBC to reverse their policy this Spring.