USF sports clubs were almost defunded by SG. Here’s how they felt.

Over 200 people filled the SG senate chamber on Feb. 20 as some sports clubs faced the possibility of losing funding. ORACLE PHOTO/CLARA ROKITA GARCIA

For Summer Garcia, the women’s hockey club isn’t just a pastime – it’s the way she’s found a sense of community on campus.

This sense of community for Garcia was almost taken away during a Student Government (SG) senate meeting held on Feb. 20.

The women’s hockey club was one of over 60 clubs nearly deemed ineligible for funding. The Senate voted against funding sports clubs an hour earlier before approving it in a revote.

Related: USF women’s hockey club starts up almost 30 years after men’s team 

The original ruling stemmed from an interpretation in SG Clause 801.4.1 in the finance code.

It states that any student organization that receives Activity & Service (A&S) funding can’t deny access to any USF student. A&S fees are paid by students and distributed by SG. 

The Senate interpreted language in the constitution of those clubs as restricting membership to only Tampa-campus students and excluding the St. Pete and Sarasota campuses. 

Typically, issues require a 24-hour notice before being put on the Senate agenda. However, they made an exception in this case, as it was “time-sensitive and affected many entities outside of SG,” according to an email from Senate President Fariah Asari.

“Student Government strives to be a voice for the student body and we are very proud of the decision we made,” she wrote. “We hope that we can continue advocating for students and supporting their endeavors as we move forward.”

Garcia, an out-of-state student from Baltimore, said she would feel displaced without the club. 

“I don’t feel like I belong here,” she said before the revote. “I don’t feel like I have a place.” 

Paige Lahrer, vice president of the women’s hockey club, said defunding would have devastated the club while it still is in its infancy. The club, founded over a year ago, uses its funding to pay its coaching staff and practice time at ice rinks. 

The figure for practice time totals as much as $17,000 per semester, she said.

While she understood the original ruling, she said she wished the clubs were given more time to figure out how to address the issue. 

Executive chair Megan O’Reilly and other Student Sports Club council members played a pivotal role in helping the issue reach the Senate.

Megan O’Reilly, executive chair of the Student Sports Club council, was one of over 200 people who attended the Senate meeting that lasted over five hours. The Senate’s decision after the revote was a “weight off her shoulders.” She said she was grateful that students would still have a place to make connections. 

“It was just this banding together to make sure that everything turned out correctly,” O’Reilly said in a phone interview after the revote.

The revote provides an avenue for students to become more involved with SG, she said.  

“There are a lot of [people] who didn’t know, including myself, until I was a member of an executive council or a Funding Council,” O’ Reilly said. “I never knew anything about it.” 

Related: ‘3 years in the making’: USF Rugby’s path to FCC Championship game

Men’s rugby club coach Murray Alfred also served as president during his time as student. He said the club uses its funds to travel to tournaments and equipment, among other expenses. He said the possibility of their club being defunded was upsetting.

“At the end of the day, they are still students and they are still part of the university,” he said. “And if there is money to give to help them out, I think that should always be the priority — to help students out.” 

Derrick Leisam, men’s rugby club president, has been with the team for three years. Leisam, along with other members, attended the Senate meeting. 

He described it as “a scary experience” because he and other members weren’t notified about which clubs wouldn’t receive funding at the time.

“I’m glad that our sports club actually was able to seal the deal,” he said.

Leisam was also jovial that the family his team and the other sports clubs have created will continue to exist. 

“All the clubs are pretty tight-knit together, and we have a great community…so it’s just great to see that,” Leisam said.

Additional reporting by Mayank Gauchwal