By Johnny Perreira and Sebastian Moronta, Staff Writers
Of all the annual events hosted on campus, Sigma Phi Rho’s AIDS Benefit receives a lion share of attention. The event, as advertised by posters and pledges, serves to raise awareness as well as donate a percentage of the proceeds to the AIDS Action Committee (AAC), a charity based in Boston.
The event consists of performances from on-campus organizations like Mental Note, and off-campus persons like this year’s host Emmanuel Hudson. The event is large, theatrical, and incredibly fun, as is the after party. It’s also mostly funded by the Student Government Association (SGA) through a special process called a Student Funded Program, or an SFP.
Typically Sigma Phi Rho receives funding from multiple sources for the event, but this year the AIDS Benefit was funded entirely by the SGA. The amount Sigma Phi Rho received was significantly large, despite the fact that in 2016 after last year’s benefit, Sigma Phi Rho failed to make any donation at all.
Sigma Phi Rho is one of the most popular fraternities on campus, and like all other Greek organizations, it is considered “exclusive” and as a result does not receive annual funding from SGA. So, they must run fundraisers, request help from other organizations, or request an SFP.
The Torch confirmed the lapse in donation with the AAC’s annual reports, and with statements from Sigma Phi Rho members. In an interview with The Torch, current president Raudney Bordeau expressed his guilt towards the lapse last year. Vice President at the time, he was not in charge of the financials and couldn’t explain the mistake in detail. He did say, however, that he “plans on donating extra, double if we can,” as a remedy to past mistakes.
Last year’s President and current Treasurer, Charlens Beneche, doubled down. “This year’s donation of 7,000 is a combination of this year and last year’s events,” Beneche told The Torch, citing a “miscommunication” with SAIL as an explanation for the lapse.
According to Beneche, SAIL charged Sigma Phi Rho for an event held months later run in tandem with Sigma Phi Rho and other student orgs, a cost the fraternity was not entirely responsible for paying. When SAIL corrected the issue, Sigma Phi Rho had to run events and pay costs, so the donation money was used to fund other programs in lieu of making a donation.
SAIL explained the donation process for charitable events run by student organizations. UMass Dartmouth is a state-run organization, which legally precludes it from making direct donations. Instead, student organizations request an invoice from the charity, which they then receive and submit to SAIL to fulfill, as they alone are authorized to handle student org accounts.
The process is complicated, but it’s the only legal way for an on-campus organization to donate. SAIL declined to comment on Sigma Phi Rho’s account of last year’s events, but stressed that any mischarge of any organization’s account is refunded in its entirety. The only question left is what could have been done to ensure this donation on the Student Government Association’s part.
For this year’s benefit, Sigma Phi Rho received an SFP for $17,000, double the usual amount given by SGA. This means that SGA funded the AIDS Benefit entirely by themselves, unless the fraternity decided to spend some of their own money on it. When asked if SGA was aware of this issue, they officially responded, “The executive board of the Student Government was made aware of the possibility that the AIDS Benefit did not donate last year. This was brought to the executive board’s attention shortly before the funding vote for AIDS Benefit Show this year. At the time, it was speculation and not confirmed.”
They reinforced the fact that Sigma Phi Rho broke no past or present policies, alongside their claim that “the AIDS Benefit is aimed at spreading awareness of the AIDS epidemic and to provide a social opportunity for students on campus. Though the donation is an important part of the event, it is not the event’s main purpose,” which contradicts Sigma Phi Rho’s public Facebook event for last year’s AIDS Benefit which states, “Proceeds from this annual event benefit the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.”
The Student Government Association also confirmed that there are “no official policies in place to specifically confirm donations.”
They stated that they always work to improve their process, but made no suggestion towards an implementation in donation policy
SAIL and SGA publicly confirmed that Sigma Phi Rho is donating $7,000 this year, solidifying Raudney’s determination to correct the mistakes of last year.