Student activities fund exhausted mid year; students now seek money elsewhere

Yolanda Rucker, activities intern to the Dean’s office, has allocated funds to events including the Winter Study Montreal trip and midnight snacks at Goodrich during finals week. Unfortunately, halfway through the school year, her office has exhausted its funds and students to whom she had promised funds have had to look to other sources for activities funding.

Jen Berson ’99, programming director of the Williams College Jewish Association, requested funding from Rucker in November to sponsor a concert with the Israeli band Inasense. Rucker promised her one thousand dollars. Unfortunately, Berson never received the money and has had to seek funding from other sources.

“I began planning a concert in November with the express purpose of avoiding any last minute disasters” Berson said. “I approached Yolanda, hoping she could help me out as a funding source as well as a planning and organizational resource. She was really wonderful to work with, promised me $1000 immediately, which surprised me at the time, because this was a non-alcoholic, all-campus event of the type she is interested in funding, and helped me get in contact with other groups.”

Rucker and Berson agreed that the money didn’t have to be transferred right away because Berson did not have the account number at the time and the concert was not until February.

Berson approached numerous other sources and successfully acquired the remainder of the funds from the Chaplain’s office, CUL, the Bronfman Committee, MINCO and the Housing Committee.

“I was away during Winter Study and when I returned to campus I began securing the funds, making sure that they were being transferred,” said Berson. “It was not until Friday, February 12, two weeks before the concert date that Yolanda informed me simply that her account was frozen and none of the money she had promised me would be available. She offered whatever help she could to help me obtain the money that I needed to have the concert go on.”

Berson commented that the situation is particularly unfortunate because it has significantly affected campus programming for a number of student groups.

Tho outing club, for instance, requested $3,000 for Friday’s Winter Carnival rave at Goodrich, which Rucker assured them would be available. Rucker could not provide them with the funds however, and organizers had to seek funding from other sources at the last moment.

“Yolanda herself told me that I was not the only group affected, and I’ve also spoken to some other people who were involved in similar situations,” said Berson. “Students put forth an incredible effort into bringing all sorts of innovative, fun and educational events to campus in order to benefit the student body, to provide opportunities unavailable in other environments, and certainly normally inaccessible from the middle of the Berkshires.”

Berson described the difficulty of dealing with informal contracts for event funding in the face of very formal contracts for the events themselves.

“The process for obtaining funds for these events is often a grueling one which involves requesting small amounts of money from many different campus departments or organizations, and trying to mesh dealing with oral contracts and uncertainty on the Williams end with professional contracts and serious consequences on the ‘real world’ end.”

Berson called Rucker’s inability to come up with the funds “a huge error, an obviously unintended and regretted one but an error nonetheless, in the managing of a budget, which will have widespread repercussions on campus life.”

“I contracted with the band based on having this $1,000,” said Berson, “and I should not have been expected to pound the pavement looking for money two weeks prior to the event. Fortunately, I have been able to acquire the necessary funds to make the show happen.

Rucker apologized for the inconvenience she has caused student organizations, but did not seem regretful of having funded other activities in their place.

“I am deeply sorry about the funds that were not allotted to the Outing Club, and the Jewish Association,” said Rucker. “It’s been a very unique year of programming, unlike any other. From what I hear, students seem to be very pleased with the events that have taken place so far. We didn’t want the cost of an event to stop students from being involved in the program, so we made them affordable, social, and interactive.”

Berson decided that the far-reaching repercussions of the situation warranted action, and after informing Rucker, reported it to Dean Wanda Lee.

“I just want to stress that while this was a big mistake, once it was done nothing could be done to put more funds into Yolanda’s account,” said Berson. “She did make it clear that she was willing to help me remedy the situation in any way that she could. It was my decision to take it to Dean Lee, her supervisor, and I did inform Yolanda that I was doing that.”

Student Activities Intern

As the activities intern to the dean’s office, Rucker is being trained in the field of student affairs. Her job includes working with student groups to coordinate campus events and helps them to collaborate events with other organizations. Rucker also provides financial support to those groups that need it. Rucker described a major function of her office as providing inexpensive entertainment to the campus.

“In addition to helping student groups, my office is responsible for coordinating campus-wide programs that would be inclusive, affordable, and enjoyable to the campus at large,” said Rucker.

Rucker also functions as co-advisor to the Housing Committee and to the Senior Week Committee. She serves on the administrative Sexual Assault Response Team, as well as the Lecture Committee, a source another source of funding for faculty, staff, and students. As chair of the Lecture Committee, she also maintains its budget.

Rucker’s position is a new one and has evolved during the year to meet student demand.

“Students had been asking a lot about where to get resources for certain events, so my office has developed and maintained a resource library for student use,” Rucker said. “I maintain regular open office hours so that students can come check out what’s on file, or offer suggestions for what they’d like to see. During that time I also meet with various student groups to help solve event planning problems, and to discuss ideas to improve student life on campus. We’ve tried our best to implement some of these ideas.”

Rucker said that among ideas brought to her office came at a recommendation from the Dean’s office in response to student requests to get off campus. Rucker developed a program of off campus transportation in response to this demand.

“With guidance from the Dean’s Office, I put together trips that would [get student off campus],” said Rucker. “They include road trips to New York City, Boston, Crossgates Mall in Albany, and Montreal, Canada.”

Rucker has also helped to organize on campus events including the Gargoyle Carnival at Berkshire Quad, Drive-In Movie Night at Cole Field, and the midnight snacks during finals week at Goodrich.

Her office has also helped to fund events which Rucker had no hand in planning such as the Halloween Fair at Berkshire Quad, four of the Log DJ’s, SASA’s Traditional Indian Dinner at the log, the English Department’s winter study film projects, the Frosh Council/College Council Shuttle Buses, the Homecoming Mid-Summer Night Dream party at Goodrich, Cinephiles movies at Images, speakers from the National Association for the Empowerment of African People, the Graffiti Slide & Lecture Tour, the Mad Cow Magazine, the Masquerade Ball, and the Swing Club Gala.

Rucker described the process through which students request funding.

“Students have a very easy process for requesting funds from my office. They just need to submit something in writing via email, or a formal letter. There is a certain criterion that has been developed, in collaboration with the Dean’s Office. The event must be all-campus, and it must be a non-alcoholic program. The goal is to fund events that offset the alcohol focus in this community, and balance campus events.”

Rucker added that groups must also try to get funding from other sources, so that her office is not entirely funding one event.

With funds gone, Rucker says that her office will still serve as a planning resource to students even if it cannot offer them financial support.

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