Professional salsa dancer Carlo Fernando counts repeatedly while clapping to the music, teaching his 20 students at UCF’s Barbara Ying Center the basics of salsa dancing.
Fernando had volunteered to be the instructor for the class sponsored by the UCF Puerto Rican Student Association on March 3. The student club organized the event to showcase the influence of Hispanic culture through dance.
During the lesson, the students laugh at the mistakes of others, while groping on their own feet. Some pick it up much faster than others, even getting lost in the music.
UCF senior and club president Carolina Orria said the course was possible because Fernando volunteered to teach. The student organization has not received any funding from the UCF student government since becoming involved with the club. And that’s the problem, she said.
“We don’t charge membership fees; it’s all donation-based,” Orria said. “Or if we get help or fundraisers.”
There are student organizations on campus that receive little to no funding from the student government, even though it has a budget of $350,000 per year to support them. For some clubs, the problem is not being familiar with the application process, which they say is complicated.
Registered student organizations meet the following requirements: they have at least 12 UCF student members with official Knights emails; a president and another officer with support from a UCF faculty member; and a constitution and mission that does not duplicate any other club, as well as other external membership documents.
UCF charges students $11.67 per credit hour in activity and service fees to fund student activities of all kinds. The student government has allocated $350,000 this year to fund student groups.
Hannah Mittan, student government chair of the Financial Allocations to Organizations Committee, said. “As we come back from COVID and all of this, we have a lot of funds left over from previous years.”
Mittan said the $350,000 budget is divided into four fiscal quarters. If there is money left, it is carried over to the next quarter.
To apply for the RSO and individual funding, students should go through the UCF KnightConnect website and complete the funding application forms. Mittan said RSOs can request up to $33,475.
One example is when RSO Turning Point USA requested and received $17,930 to bring former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany to UCF for a speech last year. The student government provided that amount and Turning Point USA had to find the remaining $17,930, with the two paying half the cost.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers requested the least funds this year: $357.48 for its student design competition and spent only $216.38.
Formula Student, an organization that designs, manufactures and competes with a new formula-style vehicle each college year, has requested $33,110, the highest amount sought so far this year.
So there is a lot of money available for student organizations. The question is, how can more groups access these funds?
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Orria said that to be less dependent on donations and fundraising, she would like to request $2,000 for her organization. But she struggles to fulfill the request.
“I’ve called many times to get this financial form, but once I start it, I see questions that I don’t know how to answer, and then I stop,” Orria said.
“I feel like they have a lot of resources that are not being communicated everywhere. I think a lot of that is because UCF is so huge that information gets lost,” said Orria. “But if there was a better bridge between the RSOs and the student government. Let’s say if we had a meeting, like once a month to let us know what’s going on. I think the RSOs would take better advantage of the resources that SGA has to offer.”
Mittan acknowledges that gathering the required materials can be complicated.
Website improvements are underway, Mittan said, with the goal of making the documents easier to understand.
“We want to give every RSO the same opportunity,” Mittan said.
This story is part of a partnership between the Orlando Sentinel and UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media.