Sailing club rocks SGB’s boat with Allocations request

By Danielle Fox / Staff Writer

After three years of discussion and Allocations forms, the Pitt Sailing Club finally has its own fleet. 

Senior neuroscience and philosophy major Vincent Mattiola created the sailing club in November 2011 with the donation of a single Hobie 16 sailboat. Since then, club members have lobbied for SGB to fund the purchase of additional sailboats so they would be able to train competitively and be able to have more members sail.

After multiple rejections from the SGB, the Board agreed on Oct. 1 to give $26,770.10 to Pitt Sailing to purchase six used sailboats from Connecticut College, which is located in New London, Conn.

A new issue has now arisen about the process of funding additional requests and who holds the purse strings at SGB, moreso than it is about the sailing club and its hefty expenses.

Tense discussion began between the Board and the Allocations Committee when Mattiola came before the board during the Board’s public meeting on Oct. 15, asking for $3,173.04 in additional funding. The club needed the additional funding to purchase a trailer for $2,400, one rack for the trailer for $300 and pads for the rack for $473.04. Instead of submitting a single request, the club president submitted allocations forms for the items separately, which is the incorrect procedure. As described in the Allocations Manual, which prescribes the process for awarding funds to student organizations, all three items should have been submitted as a single request. When submitted separately, the requests for the rack and pads were for amounts less than $500, changing how they were evaluated.                                                          

Any request less then $500 does not go to the Board for consideration but to the Allocations Committee, which then has the final say on whether to grant the funds.

The committee recommended that the Board deny all three requests because the club had been already been allocated $29,170.10, which Allocations Committee Chairman Alexander Majchrzak said is far more money than the usual amount allocated to a student organization.

The Board did not vote in line with the committee’s recommendation and members of the Board disapproved of the committee’s ruling on the requests for funding to purchase the two racks.

“In some cases recently, we have seen the Board overstepping their boundaries,” said Majchrzak. 

He added that he wanted to be sure the Board respected his committee’s recommendations.

Majchrzak said he met with the Board last week to discuss the denied requests. After discussion, it was decided that the Allocations Committee would vote on whether or not they will allow the club to withdraw the original two requests. The club would then resubmit the requests for the racks and pads as one request to make it total more than $500, therefore falling under the jurisdiction of the Board.

The Allocations Committee decided on Thursday after its regular meeting that they would not allow the club to withdraw the request. According to the Allocations Manual, clubs are not allowed to submit requests twice, and the Pitt Sailing Club will be unable to reapply for funding for the racks and pads.

Prior to the decision, Majchrzak said the degree to which the Allocations Manual and the Board’s constitution are regarded as rules, rather than simply recommendations, affects how the Board handles errors in requests.

Majchrzak said he was pleased that the Board respected his committee’s role in deciding what cases his committee chooses to hear.

The committee originally recommended that the Board deny all three requests because the club had already been given far more money than the usual amount allocated to a student organization.

“It was my mistake. The form was kind of misleading to me, and I thought that I was supposed to submit them in three separate documents,” Mattiola said. “I really wouldn’t like the club to take the [brunt] of the force of my mistake.”

Because Mattiola said that the three requests were supposed to be combined, Board member David Rosenthal said he believes the Board should work with the club to get the additional funding.

“I don’t think that we should be giving these people boats and not be giving them the means to transfer them and to carry them, because that’s just a shoddy investment on our part,” Rosenthal said.

Majchrzak said he felt that the Board was not respecting his committee’s decision.

“I think the [allocations] process was designed to have the Board be allowed to break rules to help groups, but also there is an implied respect the Board should have for committees, and that part this year is a little lost,” he said.

Majchrzak said a club sport such as the Pitt Sailing Club usually receives about $5,000 a semester and receives about $7,000 to $9,000 if the team advances to national competitions. Non-sporting clubs such as service and social groups receive between $2,000 and $5,000 a semester, depending on if they send members to conferences. 

Majchrzak said only about seven or eight other student organizations have received similar amounts of funding to what the Pitt Sailing Club has been granted.

The majority of these clubs are large organizations that operate under the Office of Student Affairs and receive designated amounts of funding each year, such as the Pitt Program Council and the University yearbook, Panther Prints.

In the Allocations Manual, it says the committee has the right to not give a group funding because responsibility for finances should be shared with the club. 

Rosenthal disagreed.

“The idea of shared responsibility comes in, but it’s kind of hard to have shared responsibility when they don’t have the boats to begin with,” Rosenthal said.

To get afloat, Mattiola said the Pitt Sailing Club raised roughly $1,200 through fundraising and membership dues last year.

To learn to sail or to race, the club charges members $50 a year, and it charges $25 a year to members who only want to sail for personal pleasure. Because of the additional boats, Mattiola said dues will increase to $150 next year for members who want to learn to race, and the club will charge $10 a trip to any student who wants to sail as a social activity. 

Currently, 20 to 25 students attend the club’s meetings, and Mattiola said they would like to have a group of 50 students next year.  

Rosenthal said he wanted to give the club the additional funding because it would be a one-time expense.

“After this year, the boats are going to be there for 10 to 15 years. So I didn’t really have an issue for funding like this when there are other organizations that are getting just as much money every year as they are,” Rosenthal said.

The boat the club has been using is a 1979 Hobie 16 that Mattiola donated. Mattiola said sailing teams do not use this style of boat anymore, and that his boat has seen better days. The six boats for which the Board approved funding are Flying Juniors. These boats hold two people and are used by most competitive sailing teams.

The club currently sails on Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park, which is about an hour north of Pittsburgh.

Mattiola said the club still needs more funding to properly outfit and store the boats to ensure they last as long as possible. The boats would be stored five miles away from the lake at West Park Boat and RV Storage.

In order to purchase items such as hull covers and a storage trailer, the club needs roughly another $8,000.

Mattiola said they do not plan to ask for funding for all of the items and will be using some private funds. Mattiola also said the club does not plan to purchase all of the items this year.

Mattiola said that the club will eventually become self-sufficient.

Until that point, the Board and Allocations will be faced with more tough questions on how much to fund the club.

Majchrzak predicted rough waters ahead for dealings between his committee and the current Board.

“Considering that this Board has been more active in questioning the Allocation Committee’s decisions from the get-go and this decision is not the first time there were disagreements, I don’t foresee that [future requests] will be any different.”