Many student political organizations are working full tilt as Election Day approaches.
Whether you're involved with an organization or not, you support many of them through student fees.
Campus political groups including the Young Democrats and the College Republicans are partially funded by student fees paid for by all full-time students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Rules on Funds
These funds come with several restrictions.
They must be used for nonpartisan purposes and they must not be spent on perishable items such as food. Nonpartisan uses of funds include voter registration materials such as clipboards, pens and A-frame signs on campus encouraging students to register to vote.
But these funds can also support such ideological uses as bringing a speaker to campus, which under the rules is categorized as nonpartisan.
UNC Young Democrats treasurer Charlie Sellew says that the student congress' mission in appropriating funds is to inform the student body.
"Each student organization sends in a budget request. … And congress decides how much it will help the student body," Sellew said.
Asking for Money
Sellew says during the current school year, the UNC Young Democrats asked for $3,800 and received $1,500 from student fees.
UNC College Republicans treasurer John Eick says that his organization requested $30,000 to bring in speaker and actor Ben Stein. When the student congress approved only a third of that amount for Stein, Eick says the College Republicans reevaluated its request and turned down the money.
"We realized that might be too much work to make up the difference," Eick said.
Eick says the College Republicans is working on securing a different speaker, such as former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Bringing him to UNC would cost the group about $15,000.
Sellew notes the disparity in funding, but explains that the gap comes from a difference in activities and approach.
"Over the course of history there has been a lot more funding toward conservative groups," Sellew said. "We don't spend as much on speakers. I don't think there's an intentional conspiracy. I just think that certain organizations have played the system well."
Organizations supplement their student body funds with additional funding directly from students, such as membership dues and T-shirt sales, and from nonprofit groups such as the conservative Young America's Foundation.
UNC's Young Democrats have raised around $7,000 in additional funding this year. The funds are generally unrestricted, so these groups can still participate in partisan activities.
The College Republicans is "much more reliant on student fees, which is why we're allowed to have more partisan activities," Sellew said.
"Usually student congress will not give you all the money that you need," Eick said. He says that without funding from nonprofit organizations, it would be difficult to carry out many of the activities that the College Republicans prefer.