#BREAKING USU Free Membership marks new era in C&S funding
By Hektor Vineburg
Amidst the beginning of Semester One and Welcome Week at the University of Sydney the USU has handed out their new Clubs and Societies handbook for 2019 which has drawn criticism from many executive members. The new handbook hands down a whopping cut to clubs and society event money with funding for events going from four to six dollars depending on the placement of an event to ”($1 per USU member in attendance + 30% of total cost of the event) up to break even based on your event income” according to the USU.
This change was announced with an information session on the 18th in which Clubs and Society members were provided information about the changes to events funding an the rest of the handbook. Many within the meeting felt miffed about the drastic reduction to C&S events funding.
President of Sydney Arts Students Society, Brooke Salzmann was critical of the moves made by C&S, stating to Pulp. “I don’t think any society is happy on the surface, granting free access sounds like an incredible idea! However, because clubs can now only claim $1 for every event attendee as opposed to the previous $4 for external events and $6 for internal events it puts a lot of stress on societies now. Clubs, including SASS will end up having to charge more just so we can break even on events. Other clubs and societies use to have a lot of free events for students but now I don’t think that is feasible as we would lose too much money.
SASS already tries its best to make sure our events are affordable as possible, so it’s sad to think that our prices will now have to go up
Some societies are now pressured to charge sign up fees but it is impossible to do so for welcome week as you need to hold a general meeting to change the constitution in order to do so. It’s a shame that that is something CnS didn’t really think through properly. I really feel for those smaller societies that will be even more greatly impacted by these changes, who rely on funding to allow them to host events! It’s really disheartening.
Although I know CnS is doing its best to try and accommodate to the free Access membership, I think we should’ve been given much more warning as to how it was going to impact the societies directly rather than two days before stalls open.
I think over time I am hoping that it will improve and that CnS will be able to provide sufficient answers to our questions but in the meantime it is going to be rather difficult to adjust to these changes.”
Many other executives were also critical of the changes to events funding, including Griffen Edge, President of Sydney University Experience Designers (SUEDE) told Pulp “When the funding slides came up at the C&S Information Session, the SUEDE treasurer and I turned to each other with the same word on our lips. “****” Edge continued, saying “These funding changes will cause a dramatic difference in the C&S program … I would not be surprised if a fair amount of societies find themselves no longer able to operate.” Jeffrey Kong, treasurer for ECOPSoc (The Political Economy Society) said to pulp; “It encourages societies to become more like businesses, acting more corporate and is quite bad for smaller societies” Jeffrey continued on, stating “Societies now have to scavenge for ways to make money back … how can you make such a radical change without proper consultation of the student body … Really is a bad move by C&S.”
Pulp requested comment about the changes to events funding from the USU, and received a full statement from Liliana Tai, President of the USU.
”We want it to be clear that the overall funding for C&S programs has actually increased by $55,000 however, the way we are distributing the money has changed such that we can better manage an influx of members given the historical change of free membership. It will be hard to predict how free membership will impact the organisation’s funding structure. Consequently, we have altered funding caps so that small, new clubs or clubs who host events later in the year do not miss out on funding. We also want to stress the funding arrangements are flexible and we will revisit the model after this first semester of free USU membership. We will have another forum in a month’s time with all the C&S Executives to receive their feedback from semester 1.”
The conversation about what the impacts of what free membership would be have seemingly been answered by the changes released in the C&S Handbook for this year. Free membership has ushered a new era for the USU and for Clubs and Societies, and it is now a question of how these changes to our union will impact campus life in the long term.