Activities & Organizations News

Blaffer, Speech and Debate make their cases to SFAC

The Blaffer Art Museum is being renovated by the WORK Architecture Company, which is based in New York. After the museum reopens at the end of September, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday — the building is closed on Sundays and Mondays. The museum encourages the UH community to view its collections by offering free admission. | Nine Nguyen/The Daily Cougar

The Blaffer Art Museum hopes to use their funds to expand collaborations with other colleges. | Nine Nguyen/ The Cougar

The Speech and Debate Program and the Blaffer Art Museum presented their budget requests to the Student Fee Advisory Committee Friday in hopes of receiving additional funding for fiscal year 2018.

SDP requested a $70,000 base augmentation for the organization and a $32,000 mock trial-specific base augmentation.

“We don’t think there is a one-to-one trade-off between speech and mock trial, which is why we have requested them separately,” said Richard Garner, the new director of SDP. “The augmentation for Speech and Debate will go toward travel, and our first priority is for Speech and Debate to have more individual events.”

One concern from SFAC about increasing the base augmentation for mock trial would be the double-dipping of SFAC and Activities Funding Board funds. Garner said none of the money received from AFB can be used for travel per their bylaws.

The base augmentation for SDP would go toward a student worker, registration and travel expenses for tournaments and travel expenses, according to the request.

SDP has been rejected twice when requesting additional funds for travel due to the extremely high cost per student. To justify that high cost, SFAC has emphasized that SDP needs to elaborate on the way the organization benefits other students.

The program said that it gives back to the community through its Houston Debate Mentorship Collaborative. The high school mentorship program increases the number of minorities involved in SDP, Garner said.

As for money not coming from SFAC, Garner said that its mock trial will be a good avenue for fundraising as well as its summer camp program.

The Blaffer Art Museum requested a one-time increase of $8,000 in base funding to support a student-led programming initiative. This initiative would lead to interaction, discussion and collaboration between students of different disciplines.

One collaboration with the College of Engineering brought artists and scientists from around the world together in a July exhibit that focused on neuroscience and art.

James Rosengren, the museum’s deputy director, said that collaborations such as these are free for the public to attend and help create a dialogue between organizations. He said that they help make Blaffer not only a gateway to the University and the city, but also the students, by connecting 13 different student organizations.

“We hope that this one-time augmentation can help us realize this new partnership we have with CotA (College of the Arts) Connects,” Rosengren said. “We want to be able to set the tone for an entire year’s worth of programs that are student-focused.”

CotA Connects is a program that brings together different disciplines and focuses on work and research beyond campus.

“We are only asking for a one-time request because (SFAC deserves) to see if we can put our money where our mouth is and do what we set out to accomplish,” Rosengren said. “People are not doing interdisciplinary programs at this scale. We would like the opportunity to be able to extend our program for a year and see what comes of it.”

Last year, SFAC recommended that Blaffer increases student involvement and offers new means of increasing student participation plus attracting unique visitors to its gallery.

Rosengren believes that these collaborative efforts will do just that.

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