Camelympics Funding Lost, then Found: SGA and housefellows work together to fund dorm t-shirts

On the Connecticut College website, the Admissions page lists Camelympics as one of the “Ten Things to Love about Connecticut College,” but recent changes in funding and rumors of budgetary cuts have some wondering where the money for this year’s Camelympics will come from.

Camelympics, one of students’ most beloved events, is an annual competition among all of the dorms, held by the school to bolster dorm pride and unite the campus. In previous years, the funding for Camelympics came from the Board of Governors (BOG), a committee comprised of one student from each dorm. BOG was in charge of appropriating money to the dorms for events, and had an annual fund of $5,000 that went solely to Camelympics.

In the 2008-2009 school year, the Board was disbanded and replaced by the current Floor Governor system. During the transition, the administration made an oversight and did not account for a major part of the Camelympics festivities: money for t-shirts.
Every year, a member of each dorm designs a t-shirt that is exhibited during the games. In reference to the importance of these shirts, Lambdin Housefellow Sara Keller said, “It’s a really big part of Camelympics and I think that shirts do a lot for dorm pride. It’s kind of fun by senior year. You have four shirts from everywhere you’ve lived.”

These t-shirts have now become a point of contention: the burden falls upon the shoulders of Residential Life and the dorms. Each year, the dorms are allotted a certain amount of money, depending on the number of residents, to put on various social events. The social budget this year was not large enough to completely compensate for the lack of Camelympics funding.

To make sure that each dorm was able to have shirts for the event, Residential Life came to SGA with a proposal to financially support them. “They didn’t think to redistribute the funds for Camelympics,” said Alex Shapiro ’11, SGA Chair of Academic Affairs. “Recently, Residential Life asked SGA for the money to subsidize the t-shirt funding so all of the Housefellows’ budgets wouldn’t be spent before Camelympics.”

SGA President Nathan Cornell made it clear that SGA had no role in the Camelympics funding cutbacks. “There’s this notion around campus this year that SGA cut the funding for Camelympics, and that isn’t true,” he said. “It’s just that BOG was dissolved, which is where the miscommunication for funding lies.”

The price for one shirt is $5.95. SGA covered two dollars per shirt, giving a total donation of $3,680. SGA attached some strings to this donation, however: they called for the reinstatement of floor hockey, and an SGA logo on all of the Camelympics shirts. Because houses are given around five dollars for each student per semester in funds, SGA did not find it necessary to fully fund the cost of the shirts.

Still, SGA’s contribution did not fully cover the cost. The Housefellows were thus confronted with a difficult decision: they could either ask the students to pay the remaining cost or they could use almost all of the money left in their budgets, thereby eliminating the possibility of hosting other events this semester.

“All the Housefellows voted to use their account for social programming. It basically takes our entire budget to pay for the shirts. It had to be unanimous,” said Keller.  “It’s not fair to ask the students, even if it’s just three dollars. To some students that is nothing, to some students it’s a lot. It’s also a lot of work for our staff to go track down money. We just wanted to make it fair.”

The lack of funding for Camelympics has led some to wonder whether this small incident reflects a larger trend at Connecticut College. Due to the current economic climate, the college has had to make various changes. The Endowment page on the school’s website admits that Conn “has not been immune to global declines in stock values.” However, Cornell stated confidently that there has been no change of funding for clubs and other events. He insisted that funding for various student clubs and events only fluctuates due to a club’s effectiveness and their utilization of funds from the previous year.

In summarizing SGA’s feelings on the matter, Shapiro said SGA “thought it was important [to donate the money to Residential Life] because we, as a student government, do support community pride. This is a big campus-wide event and it was important to decrease the amount students would have to pay, so more people would have t-shirts and enjoy Camelympics.”

Camelympics occurs at the beginning of October. Blackstone Housefellow Sally Zuar is “looking forward to it more than ever this year.”
Without t-shirts, where would the spirit be? Luckily no student will have to unwillingly miss out on the bonding experience of Camelympics because of a requirement to pay out of pocket. The dorms and SGA literally have students’ backs covered.