On Thursday, Jane Wang ’24, managing editor of the College Hill Independent, received a call from the paper’s printer. Their funding had been frozen, and Wang had no idea why.
The Indy was one of six student groups that have temporarily lost funding from the Student Activities Office as a result of missing a mandatory meeting sponsored by SAO: Event Planning 101.
According to Joie Steele, director of student activities, the six groups who missed the meeting but have indicated to SAO that they are active on campus will be able to regain their funding by attending a make-up session next week.
Sacha Sloan ’23.5, another managing editor for the Indy, said that he and the other leaders of the paper had not known in advance about the mandatory info session.
SAO sent communications about the meeting to the former managing editors of the paper and an incorrect general email for the organization, according to emails reviewed by The Herald. There had also been communication about the meeting sent to all students in a Sept. 13 email from the Undergraduate Council of Students and in two separate Today@Brown announcements.
There were four sessions of Event Planning 101 spread over two days that student group representatives could attend, according to the email from UCS.
“There are a few things student organizations need to do to remain active and have access to funding,” Steele wrote in an email to The Herald. In order to maintain funding, groups must fill out a spring roll call, update rosters and primary contact information and ensure their financial signatories attend a separate annual training.
The final funding requirement is sending a representative to the Event Planning 101 meeting in the fall. “All groups that fulfill those requirements have access to baseline funding,” Steele wrote, adding that certain groups can submit requests for additional funding through the Undergraduate Finance Board.
Steele wrote that the meeting covers the basics about SAO, risk management, event hosting and other policies for student groups.
She explained that in previous years, missing the meeting meant that a club would have been “fully deactivated,” but this year it just resulted in a freeze of the organization’s funding.
Sloan said that it was unsettling and confusing to be informed about the club’s funding status for the first time from their printer rather than a University representative.
“The central part of our operations is our funding and the print issues that we produce,” he said. “We have nowhere near the same amount of reach online. We distribute throughout Providence.”
“Our newspaper is for the broader Providence community, not just for Brown University students,” Sloan added.
Sloan, Wang and Corinne Leong ’24 — the Indy’s third managing editor — reached out to SAO to ask about how they could restore the funding. Initially, Steele responded that the paper would not be able to regain its funding this semester, according to emails reviewed by The Herald.
Sloan then reached out to several campus representatives, including President Christina Paxson P’19, in an attempt to override the decision. Paxson deferred to campus life professionals on the matter, emails show.
On Sunday, the managing editors of the Indy posted on their Substack about their funding freeze, asking readers to become paid subscribers to their newsletter. They also asked for donations through a GoFundMe to crowdsource the money needed to print for the remainder of the semester.
SAO financial policy allows for fundraising only from club alums or parents of current or former members. Organizations are eligible to apply to fundraise after five years and meeting various other criteria.
“After realizing that the GoFundMe may have gone against SAO policies, we promptly deleted it, returning all the money to the donors,” Sloan wrote in a message to The Herald. The GoFundMe had accumulated $5,320 in donations before being taken down.
“When it comes to the Substack, we are going to email each donor and ask them if they would like their money back or to donate it to the stipend fund,” Sloan added.
Upon learning about the opportunity to attend a make-up meeting and regain their funding, the Indy’s editors were relieved.
“Ultimately, our goal is not to be punitive, but we are balancing holding groups accountable for the requirements of maintaining their active status while also wanting to give as many opportunities as possible to help groups access the information they need,” Steele wrote, explaining why SAO decided to have a makeup session.
“It's important for groups to know though, that it is their responsibility to provide us with the most up to date contact information so they are aware of any requirements or training,” she added.
Katy Pickens is a Metro section editor covering College Hill, Fox Point and the Jewelry District, housing & campus footprint and activism. She is a junior from Chicago studying urban and environmental studies with a passion for knitting tiny hats.