[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?
This month, heated discussion ping-ponged back and forth on Facebook and Bamboo regarding the budget issues of Troy, the musical created and performed by KAIST students. The official positions and “letters” exchanged between the Troy representative and the President of the Undergraduate Student Council (USC) generated intense debate among KAIST students.
The heart of the problem was the Trojan Horse, on which half of the funds they received last year went to waste. Alas, this horse portended the end of Troy, as it did the end of the ancient city. Despite its erroneous execution of financial matters, Troy has succeeded in receiving the Special Funds, a new type of fund created in 2012 that is set aside for special occurrences and cultural events primarily held by student bodies other than registered clubs and autonomous organizations.
When the dispute surfaced online, hardly anyone sided with the Troy team, and neither do I attempt to defend them. There are at least two very clear reasons why Troy should be restricted in their use of dues that KAIST students pay every semester. The first is the issue of equity with other clubs. While KAIST has never been low on budgets, especially with the Special Funds that offers 300 million KRW per year, it should not support any regularly held events organized by unofficial student bodies. Any group of students that wishes to do so should first be registered as a student club and receive its regular funds accordingly, albeit much lower in amount. Any deficit that arises should then be filled by additional sponsors and club fees collected from their members. This makes sense, considering that the amount of money spent on Troy exceeds six times the average fund granted to a regular student club per year; it would be unfair for the clubs if non-clubs are regularly and so generously funded.
Secondly, it is absurd that the exorbitant Trojan Horse mistake was overlooked without any disciplinary action. Organizations that fail to use school money properly should be restricted or ineligible to apply for future funds. In addition, the Troy representative claimed that it is unfair to withhold funds this year because of something that happened last year. However, in any organization, mistakes committed by its leader are paid for by the entire group, and its performance in a certain year is always evaluated and reflected in its fate of the following years. Therefore, the accusations and excuses that the Troy representative has made can by no means be defended: Troy has gotten enough so far, and should get no more.
Nevertheless, this incident should not discourage costly cultural activities within KAIST; Special Funds should indeed be actively utilized and be accessible to all students whether they are a part of a registered school organization or not. KAIST has rarely been reluctant to grant money for such activities, but recently, a chamber music team that has applied for budgets for street-performance within the campus has been rejected. They were told that the school has become careful about granting money after the Troy incident. This should not be the desired outcome of this fuss at all. Special Funds and the Autonomous Budget should be maximized to cultivate students’ creativity and to facilitate dynamic school life. “The Genius in KAIST”, “Les KAISTroubles,”, “Team Kong-Pat”, and lastly, Troy, could not have existed without such funds. While Troy has now become the subject of dispute due to its financial issues, it is true indeed that it has contributed to the diversity of KAIST’s cultural activities and has attracted many Daejeon citizens to KAIST. The only restriction should be that these funds should support mainly one-time events, especially if the event costs a lot, to differentiate them from and maintain equity with regular clubs.
This incident brings us to another question: who should have the right to grant the funds? Currently, the USC is planning to organize another committee to control the Special Funds. This new committee would evaluate the budget application form, grant the necessary funds, and set a limit to the funds if a certain event would take place more than once. However, unlike the current Autonomous Budget Deliberation Committee, which is purely composed of students from the USC, the new committee should be larger to include regular students as well as some students from the Club Union and representatives from each autonomous organizations to reflect the general student opinion and to eliminate the equity problem that arose this month.
The Trojan Horse has laid Troy’s financial issues on the table. It probably would be the bane of Troy, but it should neither limit the funds nor restrict KAISTians’ rights to indulge in and seek creativity and passion.