College Dance Team Central

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cal Spirit Groups Deal With Budget Cuts

By Zach Williams
Contributing Writer
The Daily Californian

A strained economy and unversity budget have left UC Berkeley student spirit groups bearing off uneven financial straits leading up to Homecoming 2008.

While some groups like the Cal Dance Team, who perform at athletic events, have smoothly trotted through rough times, others have faced unexpected cuts.

The Student Homecoming Team faced a dire financial situation when its sponsor, the California Alumni Association, slashed funding to $8,000 from last year's $18,000.

Despite the cut, the group exceeded last year's budget through sponsorships from Jostens, Cal State 9 Credit Union and Kaplan, said Roxanne Rajaii, treasurer of the committee.

Carina Wong, communications director for Kaplan, said the company's donation of seven Kaplan courses to be raffled and three to be sold outright with profits going to the homecoming committee was in keeping with the company's "philosophy to help students succeed."

Evan Ettinghoff, student homecoming chair, said that since the committee's 2003 establishment, such forms of corporate sponsorship are not atypical.

Cal Dance, which is funded through the athletic department, has faced no difficulties during a time of financial adversity for others, according to the team's advisor, Diane Milano. She stressed that Cal Dance still travels to away football games.

Performance requests, which partially fund the team, have increased this year.

Zach Wong, the director of public relations for the UC Berkeley Rally Committee, expressed similar sentiments for his group when asked whether the current economy has affected committee activities.

"Personally everything (in the publicity budget) ... is paid for by the ASUC," he said.

Last year the group received $33, 062.69 in the 2008-2009 ASUC budget, an amount consistent with its allocation in recent years.

The University of California Marching Band, though, has suffered from university-wide budget cuts this year.

Band Director Robert Calonico said that a 7 percent cut to his budget this year, the defeat of a referendum last year in support of UC Berkeley's music groups and rising gas prices have caused the band to restrict its traveling schedule this year.

"(It's) the first time in my tenure that the budget fell short of the funds available (the band) has increased in size, but funding has steadily declined in recent years," he said.

The financial difficulties of the marching band have been assuaged by an endowment left by Natalie Cohen, class of 1934. The endowment provides the group with $25,000 annually.

"It was very generous to get a portion (of Cohen's $3 million donation to the chancellor's office), but we still have a shortfall and have to dip into reserves as much as we can," elaborated Calonico.

Efforts include asking students to pay a quarter of their own traveling expenses to attend two away games this season. The Straw Hat Band will miss an away game for the first time in its director's tenure.

Homecoming will be fully funded for all student spirit groups this year, but the contingents of the Cal Band that have stood at the sidelines supporting the Bears throughout seasons past will not be keeping up their usual appearances.

"It hurts ... and is frustrating because students really like going and supporting the university," said Tara Castro, director of public relations for the band.