The NAU Division III hockey team will receive $7,500 in reimbursement from ASNAU, in addition to the maximum of $3,500 allotted to student clubs, to help pay for their participation in a national tournament the team attended in March. Some clubs and ASNAU senators saw the move as controversial.
The ASNAU Senate approved three bills granting a total of $7,500 to the Division III IceJacks. The vote, held during its weekly meeting on April 4, represented a break with tradition for this semester’s senate, which had already granted the hockey team’s request for the $3,500 maximum. Following more than 30 minutes of discussion and testimony from various concerned parties, two $3,000 funding bills passed with a vote of 8-3. An additional bill for $1,500 passed with a vote of 9-2. Eleven senators were present for the vote, while one was absent.
The question facing the senate was one of consistency and financial responsibility. At the beginning of the semester, the 12 senators agreed that they would try to give financial help to any club eligible for it, but they also imposed a maximum allocation of $3,500. However, the IceJacks, along with their representative, Oregon McDiarmind, who wrote the new funding bills, believed ASNAU could afford to do more.
“I really wouldn’t put them as an exception. I’d put them as the first club to try,” McDiarmind said. “There’s always those times when we make exceptions. We made an exception for the Pershing Rifles and the Quidditch team, because they didn’t get funding from last year, so we funded them the money from last year that they should’ve gotten, but they never received.”
McDiarmind also spoke to the fact ASNAU started the year with approximately $190,000 in extra rollover, unspent money from last year’s budget.
“It’s unfortunate, but every single year we have so much rollover,” he said. “Maybe we need to be a little bit more considerate on how much we want to give clubs, especially when they really need it.”
Vice President of Student Affairs Ryan Lee provided a different perspective on the ASNAU budget.
“This year we exceeded our allocated amount for club funding in February, and the executive team had to go through and allocate funds for club funding and propose that to the senate, and the Senate approved every budget,” Lee said. “In a year where we exceeded the allocated amount in February, we are now giving three and a half times the allocated amount.”
During the meeting, McDiarmind argued the Senate exists to help the students, not to toe a budget line. He also mentioned the NAU club sports council had unanimously voted to increase funding for the hockey team.
Plea from the IceJacks
The DIII IceJacks won their regional playoff tournament on Feb. 16, earning a place in the national tournament for the first time since 2009. On Feb. 26, the IceJacks wrote a letter to the ASNAU senate, asking for additional funding or ideas for other sources of funding, in light of the team’s accomplishments and the cost of attending the national tournament. The letter was part of a packet of material provided by the IceJacks which included an announcement of their invitation to the tournament, a list of their sponsors and a news article from another university’s website about their decision to fund their own hockey team.
“We are coming to you now to ask if there is any additional financial support that you are able to give us, as our DIII program chases their dream of a National Championship,” the IceJacks wrote. “The cost of this trip is estimated to be $25,000 total . . . The players have reached out to the community . . . currently raising $5,000 in one week of fundraising, and continue to search for more support. We know we have already received our annual limit from ASNAU, but this National Tournament puts our school in the spotlight on a national scale.”
Scott Graupensperger and Matt Williams, the respective presidents of the Division III and Division II hockey clubs, signed the letter.
Thanks to personal contributions from the team, along with approximately $15,000 from donations and sponsors, the IceJacks were able to attend the national tournament on Mar. 12-14. The trip ended up costing about $27,000. NAU finished 11th in the nation out of 155 teams. Because ASNAU typically offers funding in the form of reimbursement, the IceJacks came back to the senate, hoping for some mitigation of their expenses.
“We still have outstanding bills,” Graupensperger said. “We weren’t asking for all of it, though, from ASNAU. I just know that Oregon [McDiarmind] who’s our senator, said that at the end of the year they had so much money left over, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask, you know? It seems like a good cause. We were on a national scale, representing our university.”
Graupensperger also said the team still has not received the original $3,500 allocation.
“I haven’t seen it. I haven’t gotten a check,” he said. “I keep asking Oregon, where is it, because we need it. We’re in debt right now. We have outstanding bills. We need that money.”
Graupensperger and Williams attended the April 4 meeting along with several other members of the IceJacks. In a statement made to the senate, Graupensperger discussed the team’s commitment to NAU and the benefits of supporting the hockey program.
“We know this is an unusual request, but we feel going to nationals is an accomplishment we all can be proud of,” he said.
The primary voice of dissent on this issue came from Senator Adam Fox.
“We’ve had this . . . senatorial tradition, that we put a cap on how much clubs can receive,” Fox said. “The first reason we do that is so we can keep our budget on line. The second, and this I feel is most important . . . is that all clubs are equal . . . And to me it seems very unfair that we’ve been telling every single club that you cannot ask for more than $3,500, yet we are going to be planning to make an exception for the hockey team.”
During his argument on the senate floor, Fox presented a list of more than 20 student leaders who were opposed to the idea of the IceJacks receiving additional funding, on the basis that other clubs who had received the maximum allocation knew not to come back to ASNAU looking for more.
“What’s at stake here is that one club will be given most-favored-club status over every other club,” he said.
Fox also pointed out that another reason for the limit on club funding was to encourage clubs to help themselves.
“We want to promote the issue of self-reliance because we want to help the students grow stronger,” Fox said. “We’ve already fulfilled the mission of the senate bill line.”
The majority of the senate did not agree. Among others, senators Shayla Woodhouse and Jeremy Chan defended the IceJacks as having already done more than enough fundraising on their own.
“IceJacks has an exceptional budget of over $100,000,” Woodhouse said. “No other club has that.”
“They went out of their way and worked really hard,” Chan said.
Additionally, ASNAU President Sammy Smart spoke at the meeting in favor of the funding bills, saying the principle of equitable funding is a nebulous one, because an individual can qualify for the maximum amount of $3,500, as opposed to a club of 30 individuals receiving the same amount.
Fox and fellow senator Darrell Tenney were the only ones to vote against all three bills. Senator Shannon Boruch voted against both $3,000 allocations, but in favor of the $500.
Lee served as senate chair for the meeting. While he did not cast a vote himself, he reminded the senate of the potential consequences of giving the IceJacks additional funds. After the vote passed, Lee said future senators will have to deal with the precedent set by this decision.
“This brings in a new situation that ASNAU has never been faced with, where a club is asking for more money than we previously discussed,” Lee said. “We need to provide a new atmosphere where clubs can come back and ask for additional funds. In my two years with ASNAU, we have set limits and turned people away, so now that we’ve set a limit and accepted additional funding, we need to be prepared to honor that for other clubs.”
A New Precedent
Following the vote, Graupensperger and Williams expressed their satisfaction with the result.
“I feel like it’s a step in the next direction for NAU,” Williams said. “It allows clubs that are trying to bring NAU spirit and pride, and show how great a school NAU is, a great opportunity to possibly come back and get some money themselves.”
The two hockey club presidents encourage other clubs to do the same.
“Of course I think other clubs should come in here and try to get funding as long as they are trying to improve and better this great school we have here at NAU,” Williams said. “I feel there’s all these clubs out there that make this school so great and they all deserve the funding we get.”
Fox was disappointed by the vote, but accepted it.
“We had the debate that was needed,” Fox said. “Even though the vote didn’t go the way I wanted to see it, I still believe that by standing up to my principles, based on the constituents that elected me, I’ve done what is right. I support whatever decision ASNAU makes . . . and I will stand behind ASNAU in this decision going forward.”
McDiarmind, on the other hand, was pleased with the outcome of the vote and expressed excitement about the senate’s ability to adapt their decisions to the specific situation.
“One of the cool things about student government is that if it’s not in the bylaws or in the constitution, we’re not held to it,” he said. “So we can interpret things as we feel.”
Editor’s note: Reporters Gary Collins and Justin Regan also contributed to this report.
Originally published in The Lumberjack (http://jackcentral.com/featurednews/2013/04/asnau-passes-bill-reimbursing-diii-icejacks/)