USAC plans to offer refunds to eligible student organizations

The Undergraduate Student Association Council Finance Committee plans to reimburse eligible student organizations for events scheduled for the winter term that have been canceled due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

UCLA Administrative Representative and Advisor for Student Organizations, Leadership, and Engagement Orlando Luna announced the decision at the January 4 USAC meeting after encouraging student organizations to avoid meetings in person during the transition to virtual learning.

“The committee made this decision because so many student groups had to abruptly change their winter term start plans when distance learning was announced in December,” said Jenny Wang, chair of the committee of students. USAC Finance, in an emailed statement.

Wang said USAC cannot fund in-person events that are scheduled during online instruction, and student groups are eligible to request reimbursement for their events if they have applied for the Programming Fund. urgently ahead of UCLA’s decision to transition to distance learning. Student organizations can use past stipends to pay cancellation fees, Wang said.

She added that the finance committee assesses these requests on a case-by-case basis, using the same criteria as all other funding requests while considering whether the applicant originally applied to the Emergency Programming Fund for their event and how much money has been allocated. .

UCLA’s Events Office is offering refunds to student groups who have paid a fee for meeting space but cannot meet in person due to COVID-19 guidelines, the spokesperson said. ‘UCLA, Steve Montiel, in an emailed statement.

However, Montiel said UCLA’s events office received very few refund requests and only issued a few. He added that no student organization had requested reimbursement from UCLA Associated Student Events Services for early January as of Wednesday.

Wang said that as of Thursday, four student organizations received stipends specifically for costs they incurred due to event cancellations. She added that the committee ranked their original event funding requests taking into account cancellation fees in order to allocate those funds.

She also said five to seven groups of students had used their past stipends to get their cancellation fees reimbursed.

Student groups who have received funds from the ASUCLA Student Union Event Fund can request a refund or use the awarded funds to reschedule their event to another date this academic year, Montiel said.

ASUCLA Event Services allows student organizations to cancel in-person events due to pandemic-related campus closures, Montiel said. He also said student groups who have prepaid for an event can choose to direct the funds to a future event or request a refund from ASUCLA. However, ASUCLA will not reimburse students for direct vendor ASUCLA Event Services costs incurred during the cancellation process, Montiel said.

Hamza Mirza, a fourth-year history student and external vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said the organization planned his winter retreat in Yosemite National Park as a way to kick off the new year. for the club.

“It kind of allows us to start the quarter off strong and build hype for the rest of the year, while bringing in new people and…helping people get to know each other,” Mirza said.

Following the university’s announcement that distance learning would extend through Friday, the MSA canceled its winter retreat, Mirza added.

[Related Link: UCLA extends online instruction until Jan. 28 amid rising COVID-19 cases]

“In terms of the planning, it pretty much went like we realized we had to…cancel the retreat,” Mirza said.

Mirza said he is now figuring out how to receive refunds. He said his SOLE adviser has been helpful throughout this process.

He also said the university’s last-minute advice on extending e-learning complicated the club’s decision.

“I understand that it’s a bit of an everyday situation. … I wish there was better communication,” Mirza said.

Reservations and event managers at ASUCLA Event Services have reached out to student organizations hosting events and meetings at Ackerman Union to ask if the organization wishes to postpone, move to a virtual option or cancel the event, Montiel added. .

Katia Manner, a fourth-year chemical engineering student and co-director and chief financial officer of Medleys A Cappella, said Medleys also had to cancel its winter retreat when the university extended online instruction.

Manner said the club was to receive $650 of the cost of the trip from USAC’s Emergency Programming Fund, but once that funding was withdrawn, it could not cover the full cost of the trip on its own. She added that Medleys was unable to receive a full refund for the Airbnb he had booked.

“When I canceled Airbnb, we lost about $900. And that’s just out of our group members’ pockets,” Manner said.

Manner said she attended USAC’s finance committee office hours on Wednesday, but was unable to get answers about what kind of funding Medleys would receive. Medleys has yet to receive a refund on Wednesday, Manner said.

“Hopefully they can refund us the full $900 we just lost because they originally said they would refund the cancellation fee,” Manner said. “I don’t have much hope of that happening, but we’ll see.”

Manner said she wants more clarity from the university about what kind of funding student organizations can expect to see and when they can expect to receive it.

“I understand that the SOLE office…is just trying its best, especially given how unpredictable everything is,” Manner said. “My personal frustrations aren’t really a reflection of the team itself, but it’s just a very frustrating situation. It would be nice to have a bit more clarity.

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