[Debate] Is club funding to persists this way?
KAIST has had no shortage of funding issues in recent years. Its scope is not limited to extracurricular but also autonomous school bodies, and other organizations. As important as it is that students are provided with a top-notch education, a solid foundation to help pursue their passions in also the trademark of university life. What is the wisest way in which we can strive for both?
In August, the Central Operating Committee (COC), consisting of the President of the Undergraduate Student Council (USC) and the department presidents, denied creative musical team Troy’s request for a 3 million KRW fund support from the University Support Foundation. Vote was cast against the favor of Troy by 10 to 5 (with one abstained vote), on the grounds that the Troy team has shown a lack of appropriate bookkeeping obligations and inefficient allocation of the allotted funds last year. The Troy team, for their first-ever performance last year, has spent 4.7 million KRW on the gundam-resembling Trojan horse prop, which ended up useless because it was too large to enter the Auditorium (E15). That 2014 spending on the horse prop was out of a total of some 7.5 million KRW that was funded to the musical team from the university support fees.
This year, the entirely student-run musical team is facing another upcoming performance in November as part of KAIST’s series of cultural events. Concerned with the team’s financial circumstances, the Student Support Team offered the musical team some 2 million KRW from another source called Special Funds, over which neither the USC nor the COC has any control at the moment.
Two months after the COC’s denial of the Troy team’s request, campus-wide discussions and debates are still ongoing on ARA (the university’s online forum), Bamboo Forest, and over lunch tables. And yet, both the Troy team and the COC have tried so hard to address unimportant waffle in their own defense of why the musical team should – or should not – be funded. The official statements from each of them (COC’s on September 26 and the Troy team’s a little more than a week afterwards) were nauseatingly similar mirrorings of each other, babbling over the reasons for/against the musical team’s fundraising attempts.
Clearly, both parties – and along with them the many readers of their official statements – have miserably mistaken the whole point of the “Troy incident” to be the superficial list of reasons one should or shouldn’t fund the Troy team, when in fact the more fundamental subject at hand ought to be how the team, or any student-run organization wishing to raise funds, should raise funds.
On the COC’s part, its members have learnt little from the 2013 Voice of KAIST (VOK) controversies on their bookkeeping integrity. Sure, the USC back then has set up ways to oversee the flow of funds from the university support fees by monitoring and implementing a COC-approval system for any student organization to make use of the university support fees. However, the COC overlooked the Special Funds administered by the Student Support Team, even though it also comes from university support fees, was established as early as in 2011, two years before the VOK incident, sums to an enormous total of 300 million KRW, and unmistakably called for stricter and more immediate regulatory measures by the student body. In its delayed attempt to cover up its lack of monitoring the Special Funds, the USC stated in a KAIST Times article on September 22 that steps will be taken to necessitate the student population’s approval upon requesting grants from the Special Funds.
On the Troy team’s part, people need to realize that no Achilles can escape any financial crisis without first settling their identity crisis. Only a year ago, the Troy team consisted of people willing to make a creative adaptation of The Iliad out of “genuine interest”. However, the team needed money to pursue their interests, and it turned out to be undoubtedly controversial, given that there are many student gatherings called dongari, who are also doing things, making things, and practicing things for “genuine interest” – on an average yearly budget of 1 million KRW. There simply is no wonder that the Troy team is struggling with all the criticism coming from club organizers, especially those that are running on extremely low, below-average budgets and still have to go through the hassle of earning the Student Club Union’s approval every semester. Another problem is, even if the Troy team identifies itself as a service provider and not a “just-for-fun” group – as it does now in its official statement that “The team is exerting every effort possible in order to offer a unique experience and self-development for the student community and high-standard cultural events for the citizens of Daejeon,” people who refuse to benefit from their “unique experience” or “high-standard cultural events” should have the right not to fund them. That is, students should have a say on putting the university support fees to better uses, should they choose not to benefit from the Troy musical. A blatantly simple solution to tell apart those in favor of funding the musical from those who are against, is for the Troy team to issue and sell entrance tickets to their performances, but then again – blatantly – is the performance high-standard enough such that people will pay to watch it? If it is, kudos to the organizers; if not, maybe it’s time to fill in the dongari application form and compete for the available funds fair and square with other dongari.