UCF Budget Committee votes to defund Pride Coalition

By : David Thomas Moran
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Orlando The UCF Activity & Service Fee (A&SF) Budget Committee voted Dec. 16 to zero fund the University’s LGBTQ programming agency Pride Coalition. If the A&SF budget is approved as is, the Student Government Association (SGA)-affiliated agency will have no money to operate during the 2014-2015 academic school year.

SGA Vice-President Jacob Kahn, who is openly gay, proposed the motion to defund all lines of Pride Coalition’s budget for the next fiscal year. He said that he didn’t think the SGA agency was sustainable and that the University should not be creating a culture on campus of valuing the needs of one minority group over all others.

In a 9-4-0 vote, SGA President Melissa Westbrook and seven other budget committee members voted along with Kahn to cut Pride Coalition’s entire budget.

Pride Coalition requested $76,355, which is considerably less than other agencies and departments who want approximately $300,000 (Sports Club Council) and $5 million (Recreation & Wellness Center). See the full budget.

Each UCF student pays a fee per-credit-hour to fund the A&SF operating budget which supports SGA and its affiliated agencies.

The A&SF Budget Committee is responsible for allocating available A&SF funds as it deems appropriate, based on requests from SGA’s agencies and departments. The committee meets annually the week after finals before the University closes for the holidays to hear funding requests. It then submits a balanced budget recommendation to the Student Senate for final voting in the Spring semester.

“I’m very upset as a [LGBT] member of this campus [about the zero funding],” said senior accounting major and former Equal president Amy Osiason. “It seems like Pride Coalition was targeted.”

Osiason said she feels like the A&SF budget committee is unfairly favoring other student programs and services while dismissing the needs of LGBT students. She also questioned the timing of the hearing, which took place when most students are away for winter break.

Pride Coalition Student Director Nicholas Simons and Graduate Assistant Cecilia Chik represented the agency at the budget hearing.  During the presentation, Simons said the agency’s top priority was funding for staffing of the Pride Commons space, which is a popular hangout for LGBT students and their allies.

With Pride Coalition defunded, the agency’s ability to effectively run the Pride Commons space seems up in the air.

Pride Coalition Volunteer Director Gustavo Rico said Pride Commons will still exist.

“[Pride Commons] is funded through the Student Union. Pride Coalition is still an agency,” Rico said. “We just won’t have any money to do any programming.”

He said staffing for Pride Commons will be a challenge because the committee cut all of the paid, student staff positions.  Though many were shocked and disappointed by the vote, Rico, a senior psychology major, said he hopes the budget committee’s recommendation is just the first step of many toward a final A&SF budget.

Budget cuts have been an ongoing issue since the beginning of the semester when the A&SF budget saw a shortfall of $1.45 million due to students enrolling in less credit hours than originally projected for the fall term. Budgets were cut across the board for SGA-affiliated agencies and departments.

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