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USU announces drastic funding changes to clubs and societies

The changes come after the USU announced opening USU membership to all USyd students, and could have dire consequences for smaller clubs and societies

The University of Sydney Union logo but the S has been replaced by a dollar sign

The University of Sydney Union’s (USU) funding to events held by Clubs and Societies (C&S) will be dramatically altered from 2019 onwards. While in previous years, C&S events were able to claim $6 of USU funding for every Access member present, starting from this year, they will only be able to claim $1 for every USU member, plus 30% of the total cost of running an event. Furthermore, the overall amount of funding C&S are entitled to every year has been lowered from $4000 to $3000. C&S can still apply for the funding cap to be raised, should they fulfil certain requirements.

The change was announced at a meeting on Monday between the USU and representatives of all the C&S, and comes following the USU announcing free USU membership for all USyd students in January.

Under the new funding model, an event which costs $100 to run and is attended by 20 people will result in a deficit of $50. This will need to be filled up by sponsorship money or faculty support, or be avoided completely by cutting event costs beforehand. Under the old model, the same event would have resulted in a $20 surplus (funding, however, was and is capped at the event price). In order to receive the same or more funding than the old model, C&S will need to spend 15 times the number of people present. However, doing so will still result in a deficit.

This raises questions about whether the USU put in place the funding changes in order to make up for the shortfall of income resulting from opening up USU membership to all USyd students. While many societies were able to survive solely off USU funding, the alterations mean they will have to find ways to fund themselves. The changes come in spite of the university offering $1 million to fund the USU membership changes.

Speaking to Honi, David*, a member of a faculty affiliated society, said that “A lot of small clubs don’t charge membership fees or tickets for their regular events. The changes will result in lower quality and frequency of events which will inevitably result in loss of members. This vicious cycle will destroy many smaller clubs who rely on USU to fund their events.” David* also stated that he was worried that the drive for seeking sponsorship caused by the changes will force many C&S into becoming advertising fronts.

Honi understands that there was no consultation between the USU and C&S regarding the change.

While the USU did not answer Honi’s specific questions regarding the consultation process and whether the funding changes have connection to the opening up of USU membership, president Liliana Tai provided a statement that said, “We want it to be clear that the overall funding for C&S programs has actually increased by $55,000 however, the way we are distributing the money has changed such that we can better manage an influx of members given the historical change of free membership. It will be hard to predict how free membership will impact the organisation’s funding structure. Consequently, we have altered funding caps so that small, new clubs or clubs who host events later in the year do not miss out on funding. We also want to stress the funding arrangements are flexible and we will revisit the model after this first semester of free USU membership. We will have another forum in a month’s time with all the C&S Executives to receive their feedback from semester 1.”

*Names have been changed