MARDI GRAS loses MUSG student organization funding

Photo by Xidan Zhang/xidan.zhang@marquette.edu
Photo by Xidan Zhang/xidan.zhang@marquette.edu

Marquette Student Government’s Student Organization Funding Committee decided Thursday against granting a $10,000 funding request for the MARDI GRAS spring trip.

The committee cited the group’s significant previous allocations and minimal fundraising as reasons for not allocating any funds to the service organization.

“Just that specific event is the most funded student org event in SOF history,” said MUSG Executive Vice President and SOF Committee Chair Zach Bowman, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences. “We’ve been very supportive of MARDI GRAS throughout their entire time as a recognized student organization, but as we look forward we noticed that they will continue to ask us for money in perpetuity unless at some point we say that we think we could be spending this money somewhere better.”

MARDI GRAS was founded in 2006 as a service organization to help clear out homes in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. As the area was rebuilt and changed, so has MARDI GRAS’ work. The group’s work evolved from gutting destroyed homes to rebuilding houses. One of the projects includes the construction of a grocery store in New Orleans. The organization claims an active member email list of more than 500 names and routinely sends more than 250 students to Louisiana during different service trips throughout the year.

MARDI GRAS routinely received significant funding allocations from MUSG. Last year, MARDI GRAS accounted for 21.7 percent of all non-club sports SOF allocations, according to Financial Vice President and SOF Committee member Cole Johnson, a junior in the College of Business Administration.

“For the fiscal years 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and to date 2014, MARDI GRAS has utilized 11.9 percent of the total budget reserved for non-club sports in these years,” Johnson said in an email.

This year’s funding request was for the group’s winter break trip, which will send 98 students in 14 vans to New Orleans to continue their work. MARDI GRAS still plans for all 98 spots to be filled, despite the funding setback. MARDI GRAS President John Cupkovic, a senior in the College of Business Administration, said he is confident this recent setback will not negatively affect the organization or any of its members.

“I am expecting that with this decision, we can move forward with a lot of our fundraising efforts to help drive down the costs of running our winter trip,” Cupkovic said. “The money we typically receive usually goes toward driving down the cost of the trip for participants as well as some of the necessary investments needed in order to work on our projects.”

MARDI GRAS leaders met last week with Bowman and Matt Lengen, coordinator of student organizations and leadership in the Office of Student Development, to discuss the reasons behind the SOF Committee’s decision not to fund the trip. Both sides said the meeting was productive, with Bowman saying that the choice not to allocate funds this time does not mean that MARDI GRAS will not be funded at later times. Cupkovic said the organization will continue to apply for funds for future trips.