SGA Cuts Diwali Funding by Two-Thirds from Last Year

The 50th Legislature of the Student Government Association (SGA) voted Monday night to allocate a maximum of $945 in supplemental funding to the Indian Cultural Exchange’s (ICE) Nov. 24 Diwali event, granting less than one-third of ICE’s original funding request.

A bill requesting supplemental funding for Emory Reproductive Health Association’s Nov. 12 conference Health Equity in Sexual and Reproductive Health was unanimously tabled until next week’s meeting.

The amended bill was passed in a vote of 26 for, five against and two abstaining. The amended funding amount was reached based on ICE’s sponsorship projections, determined in a meeting between the SGA Finance Committee and ICE Co-President and College junior Rahul Nair.

If ICE does not receive expected funds from sponsors, SGA will meet up to $945 of ICE’s need, which will be determined following funding confirmation from sponsors after the event.

The original bill requested $3,000 for unforeseen costs, such as sponsors withdrawing. The unamended amount requested constituted one-third of SGA’s student activities fee funding this semester. SGA granted $3,000 to ICE for its Diwali event last year.

Nair and ICE Co-President and College junior Sameera Sabharwal responded to legislators’ concerns that Diwali was insufficiently advertised to graduate students, a criticism raised in past years, according to President of Laney Graduate Student Council (GSC) Crystal Grant.

“I’ll be voting against [funding] because you’ve already sold all available tickets without ensuring graduate representation,” said Grant, who added that she and other graduate representatives had “at least been given time to inform our constituencies [about ICE Diwali]” in previous years.

ICE has continued to expand its annual Diwali event, which celebrates the Hindu holiday often named “the festival of lights” and one of the largest festivals of the religion, by increasing available tickets from 600 last year to 700 this year, according to Nair and Sabharwal. One hundred and fifty tickets were sold at each of three public ticketing days, with the remaining 250 tickets reserved for ICE board members, performers and sponsors.

Emory School of Law student Stephen Lang questioned how economical providing free shuttles to Omni Hotel, where the event will be hosted, was, to which Nair responded that ICE does so to increase accessibility and ensure students’ safety.

Committee for Diversity and Equity (CDE) member and Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing graduate student Ida Curtis asked why the Nursing School had been overlooked in advertising.

“When there was no response from the [Nursing School] dean over the phone, we didn’t send a follow-up email,” Nair said. “We dropped the ball.”

In an effort to meet SGA’s “University-wide” criteria for events, ICE advertised and reserved 30 tickets for graduate students on its Facebook event page. Once all 30 were claimed, ICE instituted a wait list to ensure all tickets are sold, Sabharwal said.