Africana to hold rally against funding reduction

by Tom Ford

Africana Student Cultural Center members called on the University campus and Twin Cities community Sunday to help overturn a more than $10,000 funding cut slated for Africana by the Student Services Fees Committee.

Africana members said they’re organizing a rally Tuesday – outside a final fees hearing before University administrators – to protest its fees allocations.

At a press conference in the group’s office Sunday, Africana members said the group was unfairly punished for fiscal difficulties the center had last year and vowed not to accept a harmful budget reduction.

But several fees committee members who favored the cut said a fees reduction is justified, and the center must be held accountable for past financial problems.

After an 8-7 vote, the committee recommended $25,730 for the center, nearly halving its $50,000 request. However, University administration and regents have the authority to amend fees committee recommendations.

Ngozi Okechukwu, Africana vice president, said under the current funding recommendation much of the center’s programming is in danger, and the reduction could impact membership by reducing the group’s ability to publicize itself.

Helena Boe, the center’s office manager, said the group’s initial budget information submitted to the committee contained errors.

Boe said the group fixed those problems and gave members new figures, but the committee didn’t appear to take that data into account. She said the final recommendation wouldn’t cover its anticipated expenses.

But fees committee member Dan Nelson said the new budget figures didn’t address the center’s past mismanagement of fees money.

Last year’s committee advised the center to begin spending down reserves so that in a few years its balance would equal approximately 10 percent of its total budget, the level typically recommended for fees-receiving groups.

But Africana overspent its budget last year by almost $15,000, eliminating its reserves in one year.

Committee member Doug Karle said groups deviating from their proposed budgets violate a basic fees committee requirement to receive funding.

Karle said the committee has to ensure groups are accountable and this punitive reduction for Africana was necessary.

But Africana President Arafese Gemeda said while the group did implement poor management decisions, the committee should recognize that the center is composed of young students and allow groups more leeway in funding decisions.

Gemeda said the center has made strides to resolve its organizational problems, such as leadership turnover.

She said the center decided to elect its officers earlier than past years. In addition, she said, newly elected members and outgoing officers will go on a retreat to train next year’s leadership.

Kevin Ehlert, a committee member who opposed the funding cut, said the center should have been commended for making such efforts.

But Karle said other groups received cuts because of past financial problems and hopes this reduction would encourage Africana to better manage its money.

Gemeda said, “We’re not going to settle with $25,730.”

Tom Ford welcomes comments at [email protected]