Illinites looks for money to save program

By Michael Logli

Illinites attendees enjoy bowling, video game tournaments and food on Friday nights instead of blaring music and dark, crowded bars. But a decrease in funds may force regulars to look elsewhere for fun.

The Illini Union Board created Illinites in 2005 to curb underage drinking and provide entertainment for those uncomfortable with the University party scene. However, the Student Fee Advisory Committee decided that the money the University afforded to the program was not being spent properly, and its 10 members unanimously voted to remove Illinites funding from next year’s budget, cutting $92,262 in all.

Although the Illinites program still receives $33,056 from the Illini Union Board, the drastic decrease in funds may force Illinites to cut down on the number of events held and the quality of these events, said Leslie Cornell, junior in Communications and president of the Illini Union Board.

Even though the University of Illinois Board of Trustees has not officially passed next year’s budget, Illini Union Board members are already searching for new sources of funding.

“It’s going to be a challenge to find new outside sources,” Cornell said,

Attendance at Illinites has been increasing on average each year Illinites has been active, and the program wanted to try to accommodate the attendance increase while providing high-quality entertainment, Cornell said. Cornell also said many members passionately feel that the Illinites program is an effective way to curb underage drinking.

“We believe it is effective,” Cornell said. “A lot of the feedback we get says that a lot of people appreciate the alternative.”

The committee’s decision was a difficult one, but Justin Randall, student body president and a member of the Student Fee Advisory Committee, said the decision was based largely on a presentation the committee received from Illinites. Randall said Illinites’ attendance numbers and expenses suggested the group was spending money extravagantly, and the money would be better put to use in other areas, such as supporting McKinley Health Center.

“Because of the large amount of money being spent per student, we felt it was fiscally irresponsible to continue funding it,” said Randall, a senior in LAS.

The committee tried to compromise and look for alternatives to removing all University funding, such as charging a small admission fee to Illinites. But a compromise could not be reached.

“In a time of budgeting problems, tough choices had to be made,” Randall said.

According to the report given to the Student Fee Advisory Committee by Illinites, attendance ranges between 400 and 1,450 people per Illinites event, with about 14 events throughout the school year.

However, the four main Illinites events, which last year involved laser tagging and Second City performances, bring out the most attendance and cost the most money. Randall said the committee believed the main four events would be enough, and the Illini Union Board’s money would sponsor that.

“We looked at the program and only four of the events had significant attendance,” Randall said, adding that significant attendance means more than 1,000 people showed up.

However, in order to keep up the quality and frequency of Illinites, the money from the Illini Union Board alone is not enough, Cornell said.

“We’re hoping not to make serious changes,” Cornell said. “We’re going to take steps to find alternate sources of funding.”