The UA Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education will give $1,000 to the PRIDE Registered Student Organization to pay for their annual prom after the Associated Student Government Office of Financial Affairs board denied the budget on the grounds of it lacking educational value.
The money will go toward food, a DJ and marketing for the event, said Adrain Smith, the Multicultural Center director of leadership and diversity initiatives. The Multicultural Center will be involved in promoting the event, Smith said.
Sponsoring prom is a way for the Multicultural Center to support, encourage and celebrate LGBTQ students, Smith said.
“The reality is some students have never had the opportunity in high school to have the prom experience they desired,” Smith said.
Office of Financial Affairs board members denied the initial $800 budget the PRIDE officers presented because they were concerned that PRIDE prom lacked a structured educational component, such as a guest speaker, a presentation or a brochure, ASG Treasurer Isamar Garcia-Hernandez said.
“It was pretty unanimous,” Garcia-Hernandez said. “It was denied first round. We invited PRIDE to come appeal the board’s decision, and unfortunately, even after their appeal, the board felt like it wasn’t structured enough.”
The Office of Financial Affairs allocates $10,000 per academic year to each RSO for events, programs and materials that meet the board’s educational requirements, PRIDE Treasurer Fran Gomez said. PRIDE has not used any money from their budget this year, Gomez said.
Any RSO money that the Office of Financial Affairs does not use goes toward the Program Allocations Board budget for the following academic year, ASG President J.P. Gairhan said.
Last year, the prom budget was approximately $300. Gomez requested more this year because he wanted the event to be better than previous years, he said.
Gomez planned to have prom at the honors lounge in Gearheart Hall instead of at the Verizon Ballroom, because it would give the event a fancier feel, he said. He also worked with Ozark Catering to design a special menu for the event, he said.
When the Office of Financial Affairs board denied the initial budget request, they explained that they could not fund parties, Gomez said.
PRIDE President Chance Bardsley thinks that while prom may not be a lecture, it has more educational value than other events ASG has funded, he said.
“They have twisted so many parties to be ‘educational’ so that they can use school money to have fun,” Bardsley said. “We’re actually trying to make a difference on our campus that claims to be diverse and accepting for everyone.”
Last year, two ASG members observed PRIDE prom, and Bardsley spoke to them about how the event educates community members on diversity, acceptance and how to be an ally, he said.
“I later spoke with the ASG representatives, and they told me that it was perfect and that we met the requirements for being educational,” Bardsley said.
The Office of Financial Affairs board is composed of new members each year, and how each board perceives educational value changes from year to year, Garcia-Hernandez said.
Sophomore Ervin Jeffries, who is majoring in music, thinks PRIDE prom serves as an educational experience for everyone who attends. As a community event, it gives people outside the LGBTQ community a chance to learn about the culture they live in, he said.
“In this day and age, LGBTQ culture is just as relevant and important as international culture in learning how to get along with others in our society and needs to be recognized as such,” Jeffries said in a message.
Junior Malachi Maurice rooted her decision to attend the UofA in the knowledge that PRIDE existed and that there was an accepting community on campus for LGBTQ students.
“I like to look at everything from the perspective of the scared queer kid I was before college: you hear, ‘it gets better’ thrown around a lot and you have so much hope, but if you came from an unaccepting environment, you might not actually believe it until you experience it for yourself,” Maurice said in a message. “PRIDE and events like prom can be so crucial for a person to have that life-changing realization of, ‘oh, hey, it got better.’”
Senior Madison Hinojosa, who is majoring in political science, thinks that depriving students of PRIDE prom makes a negative political statement and creates divisiveness between ASG and LGBTQ students, she said.
“To deny (the prom budget) this year is to make a statement, particularly with the political climate the way it is, that we, the LGBTQ students at this university, are unwelcome,” Hinojosa said in a message. “To say that we are too much of a burden on the ASG is ridiculous, as this one event is all we ever ask of them.”
As Office of Financial Affairs chairperson, Garcia-Hernandez is unable to vote with the board on funding decisions. Having served on the board for three years, she has always looked forward to seeing PRIDE prom on the budget and was sad that it did not work out this year, she said.
Garcia-Hernandez recognizes the value and importance of educating the UA community on how to be better allies, especially in a climate that needs diversity education, she said.