Senate mulls request for speaker funds

In hopes of bringing a high-profile speaker to campus this semester, Program Board’s Speakers Committee requested $7,000 in addition to their allocated budget from USC’s Undergraduate Student Government at Tuesday night’s Senate meeting.

USG could not reveal the name of the speaker they were negotiating with because of contractual obligations.

Beibei Bai, director of the Speakers Committee, presented a proposal to the Senate, which has the capacity to finance the event with money from its allocations fund. Program Board will supply the majority of the money needed for the event, but the Speakers Committee budget is not sufficient enough to completely fund the speaker’s visit, Bai said.

“My job is to bring speakers on campus, but speakers tend to be very expensive if they’re big enough to draw a crowd,” Bai said. “With my budget, I have to plan at least eight events a year, so I have a very limited budget to plan events, so it happens very often that we request money from USG.”

The Speakers Committee plans events throughout the year and allocates portions of its budget as each event materializes, Bai said. In terms of this speaker, the committee has been planning the visit since the beginning of the year, but using a majority of its budget to fund the event would prevent the committee from hosting other quality events for the year, she added.

Several assemblies from Program Board will likely contribute portions of their individual budgets and additional programming ideas to this event. Program Board officials hope to encourage co-sponsorship of events between assemblies and student groups this year, said Joseph Zuniga, executive director of Program Board.

“Speakers [Committee] is one of those that gets a high volume for co-sponsorships because it’s across the board,” Zuniga said.

The reputation of the proposed speaker for this event had a positive impression on many senators at Tuesday night’s meeting. But some, like Residential Senator Sam Nagar and Commuter Senator Jean Doh, said they wanted to ensure Bai and the Speakers Committee had considered other funding options before coming to the Senate.

Although the Speakers Committee could ask other Program Board assemblies for a larger portion of their finances or seek help from a sponsor outside of USC, Bai said she avoided taking either of these routes in order to preserve other assemblies’ budgets and to ensure the event would remain free for USC students.

“It’s not an outlandish request,” Bai said. “We’re not asking USG to fund it. We’re asking for additional support.”

Zuniga said he hopes the Senate approves the funds for the event, primarily because doing so would foster further collaboration between the legislative and programming branches of USG.

“When we try to bring speakers, it’s helpful sometimes to go to the Senate for a number of reasons. Senators are a voice of the large constituency,” he said. “To co-program an event like this is important to us, and I think it kind of bridges a gap between legislative and programming, and I really like it for that reason.”

The Senate will vote on the funding proposal next week.