This year’s Dance Marathon could suffer dramatic cutbacks if the Undergraduate Student Senate does not approve a request for funding at next week’s Senate meeting.
Dance Marathon is a student-run philanthropic event with proceeds going to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The first Dance Marathon at USC was held two years ago at the Ground Zero Performance Café. Since then, it has moved to the Lyon Center because of the increase in participants and the growth of the event.
Suzanne Fitzgerald, executive director of Dance Marathon, presented a plea for funding at Tuesday night’s Senate meeting. The funding, she said, is necessary to allow the Dance Marathon to be at the scale its organizers intended.
Dance Marathon requested $5,000 from the Senate, but Fitzgerald said they are actually about $8,000 short of their projected budget of $9,429.85.
The Dance Marathon organizers had anticipated receiving a sizable amount from USG’s discretionary funding board, as they have every year. The discretionary funding board, however, has rules that say it is not allowed to fund student organizations that are not open to every student, including those that charge an entrance fee.
Though Dance Marathon does not charge an entrance fee, they do charge $15 for a T-shirt and food when participants register. The discretionary funding board, Fitzgerald said, interpreted this as an entrance fee.
“We didn’t make it clear enough that it’s not an entrance fee,” Fitzgerald said.
Because that funding fell through, Dance Marathon organizers have turned to the Senate, which operates independently from the discretionary funding board.
The organizers presented to the Senate on Tuesday, and senators then debated the request and asked specific questions about how the funds have been used and what other routes have been considered.
Senators also discussed the amount of money available in the Senate allocations fund. If the request is granted, it will account for 32 percent of the money currently in the fund, USG Vice President Ashlie Chan said during the meeting.
The Senate will vote on the request next week. Chan said it is hard to say if the vote will pass because concrete numbers will not be presented until the next meeting.
“It sounds like [the Senate] really wants to fund it, but it depends on the debate we’re having next week,” Chan said.
If they don’t receive the necessary funding, the Dance Marathon will be changed dramatically, organizers said. The length, the aesthetics and the quality of the event will all be diminished, they said.
“We would scale back dramatically to where we would have a small stage and a couple of speakers in the Lyon Center,” Fitzgerald said. “It would be a bare-minimum event, with no decorations. It would be not as entertaining and not as fun and just wouldn’t be the experience that we’re looking to create for everyone who walks in on Feb. 27.”
David Shu, Dance Marathon’s director of finances, said the event looks to expand every year, but that will be impossible this year without help from USG.
“We’re trying to make each step significantly bigger,” Shu said. “We have a pretty big goal. Penn State has a dance marathon too, and they raise over $6 million. We’re slowly trying to work ourselves up to as big as that. If we didn’t receive funding, then it’s going to be a huge step back.”
Last year, Dance Marathon raised $14,000.
Dance Marathon organizers said they have done everything in their power to receive funding, but they are running out of options.
“We’re already maximizing our fundraising and seeking sponsorships. We can’t do much more there,” Shu said. “The only thing we can do is ask the Senate. There’s no one else on campus.”