University of Wisconsin–Madison

Another Monumental Day for AHA

Every year, AHA applies for yearly University funding. Today we were approved for our third straight annual budget, to the tune of $64,350.69, making us undoubtedly the highest funded atheist student group in the country. This funding enables us to put on a variety of programs and services, many of which would not be possible without it. So how do we receive this funding? It’s a long story, but bear with me…

Every semester, in addition to our normal tuition, University of Wisconsin-Madison students are required to pay “segregated fees,” which came out to about $1,140 per person last year. These funds are allocated by a committee, the Student Services Finance Committee (SSFC), of our student government, the Associated Students of Madison (ASM). Most of the $32 million segregated fee pool goes towards paying for things like student health services, our unions, WSUM student radio, the Rape Crisis Center, bus passes, student government functions, childcare assistance, and exercise facilities. About 3% of the total segregated fees are distributed to support the hundreds of Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) on campus through a variety of funding streams.

One of these funding streams is the General Student Services Fund, AKA the holy grail of student organization funding. Rather than applying for event/travel/operations grants, GSSF groups receive a single budget to cover all of their services, programming, operating expenses, travel, and paid student staff, making this a system of funding not seen on many other campuses. Thus, the budgets can get pretty large.

There are two distinct processes through which GSSF groups receive funding. First, we must apply for eligibility and be approved as eligible into the GSSF fund. Once approved, we must submit a budget request to the SSFC and attend a budget hearing to present our proposal. Then, in the following meeting, the SSFC debates and cuts or expands parts of the group’s proposed budget. As you may recall, AHA first received funding for 2013-2014.

The eligibility cycle is on a two year basis, which means we were up for eligibility again this fall. Our submitted application was approved this past September, which means after many late nights of slaving over our application, we were deemed eligible for 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.

Then, we moved on to applying for our budget for next year. We can say with great pride that today, the SSFC voted 13-0 in favor of approving AHA’s budget proposal! This is an honor that only 14 out of the over 900 student groups on campus are receiving. So where does that $64,350.69 go?

AHA’s 2015 – 2016 Budget goes towards, among other things:
  • $246  for a yearly subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, containing Photoshop, Illustrator, and a litany of other wonderful software.
  • $300  for semesterly “Kickoff Bash” pizza parties.
    • $300  to acquire books for our own “Freethought Library”.
      • $1,000  for supplies for our office and supplies to help carry out our programs.
      • $1,300  to send our officers to the annual SSA Leadership Conference.
      • $2,780  to bring in semesterly speakers with our “Freethought Speakers Series.”
      • $3,200  on advertising AHA’s events and services in the student newspapers as well as sending out semesterly mass emails to every student on campus.
          • $5,000  on printing thousands of AHA flyers, posters, etc to be posted across UW’s campus.
          And, if you can believe it…
          • $34,090 for 9 paid staff positions for the AHA officers.

          In 2012, the man who first dreamed up and carried out the application for GSSF Funding, Chris Calvey, said this after our first budget was approved: “Here at AHA, we take pride in constantly pushing the envelope of what secular student groups can accomplish. With this record-breaking budget, we have solidified our place as the biggest, best organized, and most successful atheist student group in history. And we’re just getting started.”

          Reflecting on those words two years later, they could not have been more true. We continue to improve as an organization every year, and future is just as bright as ever. We’ve worked very hard for several years to receive budgets like these, and today is another monumental day in AHA’s long history.

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