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Wednesday, Oct 20, 2021

Bear Grants Senate sets precedents for funding

Photo by Jenna Eason.
Photo by Jenna Eason.

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Projectors. Printers. Laser tag trips. Sound boards.

Organizations on campus need a wide variety of things to function, and they don’t always have the funds to cover them.

Every year, Mercer’s SGA is allocated a certain amount of money, known as Bear Grants, to give to these organizations.

The process to get the money is a long one. This year, senators were able to read through all of the applications line by line before the senate even began.

Even then, this year’s Bear Grants Senate on Oct. 5 lasted over three hours. By the end of the night, $38,097 dollars was allocated to 50 student organizations.

“For Bear Grants, specifically, our main goal is to reach as much . . . of the student body as we possibly can,” said Senator Elizabeth McKay, the public relations & elections committee chairwoman.

Senators seemed to agree that activities, such as laser tag, are fine for organizations as long as the group’s mission meshes with the event.[pullquote speaker=" Senator Elizabeth McKay, the public relations & elections committee chairwoman." photo="" align="right" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]For Bear Grants, specifically, our main goal is to reach as much . . . of the student body as we possibly can[/pullquote]

The money originally comes out of the student activity fee that every student pays upon attending Mercer. Then, it goes to the Board of Appropriations, which gives SGA an amount every year with instructions to parse out the funds among groups that meet the BOA requirements.

The amounts granted to each organization varied with some groups like the Robotics Club and Mercer Prosthetics and Orthopedic Club coming away with over $2,000.

Senator Gabriel Gonzalez, the chairman for the fiscal affairs committee, made it clear to senators that his committee, in putting together the pre-approved funding amount, took into consideration the mission of the organization, its prior success, how much they prepared for this year, and how they perform in the meetings, according to the Bear Grants Senate minutes.

The SGA Fiscal Affairs committee went through the Bear Grants a little differently this year. After all organizations applied for the funding and met with the Fiscal Affairs representatives, the committee pre-approved an amount of funding and then shared the applications’ line items with all of the other SGA members.

Because of this, the representatives had more time to look over specific applications and highlight line items that might not be in compliance with SGA’s bylaws.

The senate still took over three hours, but this adjustment meant that the 28 organizations with no problems in their applications could be voted on all at once, and their representatives were free to leave early on in the meeting.

That meant 22 organizations were left to be decided upon in the time remaining.

Questions were raised about everything from leadership retreats to laser tag and bowling to HD-cable projectors.

Senators ruled that a Bear Grant should not go toward funding leadership retreats because they are an exclusive event only open to members of the organization.

For the International Bears Association (IBA), the laser tag was proposed as an event that would give international students a uniquely American experience. The senators passed the motion, seeing that the event is open to the whole school and stays true to the mission of the organization.

The same couldn’t be said for Mercer Asia’s request for funding to cover a trip where students would take part in laser tag and a similarly super-American pastime — bowling.

Senators decided that the organization’s mission didn’t match the activity. According to Campus Life, “the purpose of Mercer Asia is to bring diversity to Mercer University and develop a better understanding of the Asian culture and relationship.”

A representative for Mercer Asia said that the group had planned the event because they recently experienced an influx of international students in their organization and, like IBA, wanted to expose them to more American experiences.

Senators seemed to agree that activities, such as laser tag, are fine for organizations as long as the group’s mission meshes with the event. Since Mercer Asia’s goals are to highlight Asian culture, it isn’t all right for them to design programming and ask for funding to do what IBA already does.

Another issue arose with the funding request of the Mercer Entrepreneurial Engineering Education Program (MEEEP). The group, which is under new leadership, requested an undisclosed amount of money.

Senators took issue with several of the line items — including the request of funds for brand new sound equipment and a projector — inquiring as to why the equipment on reserve did not meet the needs of the organization.

The Fiscal Affairs committee expressed further concern, considering MEEEP’s poor track record with SGA money.

The president and vice president of MEEEP made a point to say that they are now under new leadership. They also emphasized that the equipment would not only be used for presentations on campus, but also would be incorporated into off-campus work as well, which means that the university’s equipment could not be used.

Senator Aaron Scherf then motioned to reduce some of the cuts on the organization, in order to allow the group to grow and expand their outreach. Senators passed the motion unanimously and moved on to the next funding request.

While the mission and track record of the organization can often be things that decide if a group receives Bear Grant funding, another decisive factor is exclusivity. According to Article 3, Section 2 of the SGA Bylaws, a recipient of Bear Grant funding must “make its membership open to all Mercer students.”

Consequently, groups like honor societies are typically unable to receive funding. However, Tri-Beta (biology honor society) and Alpha Epsilon Delta (pre-health honor society) both received Bear Grant money this year.

Senator Gabriel Gonzalez said that while not all honor societies can be funded through Bear Grants, those with national organizations allowing for honor society “associates” are technically open to students who may not meet the society’s requirements.

“For the case of Alpha Epsilon Delta and Tri-Beta, their associates are recognized. That way, the organization is open to the entire student body, and then, we give them funding,” he said.

For a more detailed record of those numbers, please see The Cluster’s online Bear Grants updates article.


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