Penn Student Government launched a fund this semester aiming to give money to underrepresented student groups on campus for social events.
PSG initially proposed the Social Life Inclusion Fund in the spring. The fund includes $150,000 from the Student Activities Council reserve fund, a pool of money that grows each year when SAC groups do not use all their allocated money. The Social Life Inclusion Fund will distribute $50,000 each year over the next three years starting this semester in a three-year pilot program, College junior and Undergraduate Assembly Treasurer Sarah Ramadan said.
Ramadan said that while most funding sources at Penn, including SAC, have many restrictions on what they will fund, the Social Life Inclusion Fund does not because its goal is to create equity among student groups in what kinds of social events they can hold. The fund operates independently from SAC, and funding requests are approved by the nine-member board, which has one seat for each branch of PSG, two seats for the 7B, which was previously known as the 6B until the minority coalition added Natives at Penn on Dec. 8, and one seat for a member of the student body.
“[The current system] fosters inequality where students who are part of [wealthier] organizations can do large social events, like downtowns and expensive restaurants and formals, whereas other students who aren't in those organizations cannot do those more expensive things without paying for it,” she said.
So far this semester, the board has distributed $8,884 to fund 16 proposals, well below their $25,000 semesterly goal.
“I really want the group to evaluate more funding requests because I think that a lot of groups don't know about it, and if they did, they would utilize it,” Ramadan said.
College senior and Penn Association for Gender Equity Outgoing Chair Sam Pancoe said that, when coming back to campus after months of being away, it became especially important for underrepresented student groups to rebuild their sense of community on campus, partially through social events. They said, however, that while the 7B is grateful for the funding, they would like to see a permanent commitment from PSG to fund minority student groups.
“This isn't a sustainable solution,” Pancoe said. “It's only $150,000 over three years, and then it's sort of like, well, what happens next? We've seen through our meetings that there's a need for this money, and the uncertain future of it is sort of disappointing.”
College sophomore Emiliano Castillo serves as the selected representative who applied to sit on the board. Castillo, who is affiliated with the Latinx Coalition, MEChA, and Mex@Penn, said that, on the board, he is able to give context for Latinx issues and student groups who apply for funding.
Pancoe said that the method of distributing the funding — through a board composed primarily of PSG members rather than providing money to 7B groups directly — complicated the distribution. The presence of the two 7B members and Castillo on the board, however, instead of just student government members, helps distribute proper funding to minority student groups on campus, Pancoe added.
“Between the three of us, we cover a lot of ground and have very different perspectives in terms of what minority funding should look like,” Pancoe said. “I think that's really important, especially since student government obviously does incredible work, but their work isn’t specifically geared towards minority students.”
Though Castillo said there is still a gap in funding received by marginalized student groups, he said the new fund has been successful so far in funding events for some groups. Castillo said that, so far, one of the biggest requests the board has funded went to La Luna Masquerade Ball, a charity event that Lambda Theta Alpha, a Latina sorority, holds every year to raise money for St. Jude Children's Hospital.