MinCo organizations struggle with funding problems

Minority student groups have had to tighten their budgets this year due to the Minority Coaltion’s (MinCo) funding shortage.

According to Samee Ahmed ’01, MinCo co-chair, the addition of two new groups – Students of Mixed Heritage (SOMH) and Native American Students at Williams (NASAW) – and the increased activity of present groups have led to MinCo’s financial crunch.

“Everyone’s budgets are tight at this point,” Ahmed said. “Groups have had to severely cut back their budgets. At the funding meeting, there were $5,160 in requests, and we could only give $2,068 because more than that was not feasible.”

He continued, “It’s great that we have more student groups and it’s a great explosion of people wanting to get involved, but we don’t have the money for them.”

Toni-Ann Thomas ’03, MinCo’s representative from the Students of Caribbean Ancestry (SOCA), echoed Ahmed’s sentiments. “As it stands now for this year, it looks kind of dismal,” she said. “Everyone’s been hit pretty bad. We’ve all had to make sacrifices.”

Founded in 1991 as an umbrella organization for groups for historically underrepresented minorities, MinCo receives two separate allocations – one for heritage celebrations and a separate discretionary fund – from the dean’s office. MinCo’s funding for the 2000-2001 school year was approved last January.

According to Ahmed, MinCo’s initial $13,000 discretionary fund – designed to cover all group expenses above costs for heritage months – rapidly dwindled to $6,322, due to added pressure to fund new groups and increase funding to preexisting organizations. This increased demand for funds has led to less money to cover ordinary expenses such as parties, conferences and cultural activities outside of heritage celebrations.

“We walked out of the first funding meeting and we felt terrible,” Ahmed said. “We had people with sad faces coming out of the meeting, knowing that they were going to have to spend a lot more time fundraising.”

“What’s disheartening is that groups are spending a lot of time trying to find funding rather than trying to plan good quality events,” he continued. The groups’ mindsets, he said, are “not ‘what can I do?’ but ‘what can I get money for?’”

This is the first time MinCo has suffered funding problems.

According to Thomas, many groups have turned to other funding bodies, such as the Housing Committee, the Student Activities Committee (SAC) and college academic departments to try to obtain extra funds. “One thing about MinCo is that groups feel a responsibility to the campus and the community at large because if [the minority organizations] don’t sponsor these activities, there are no other groups that will,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed said that MinCo plans on seeking an increase in their budget for next year. To address this year’s situation, however, Ahmed said MinCo is preparing to approach the College for funding. “We’re preparing out case and will hopefully be asking administration for financial relief in the near future,” he said.

Out of these financial woes, something positive has occurred. “There has been a lot more collaboration among the groups,” Thomas said. “Instead of only one group having a party, groups are getting together to throw more events. That’s one of the more positive things that has come out of this.”