After a prolonged and fractious debate, the Student Government (SG) Assembly amended the SG Finance Committee’s (SGFC) bylaws to place two RSO members on the committee and ensure graduate represenation in funding decisions.
The amendments were the result of a yearlong process lead by SG Vice President for Administration and second-year Julian Quintanilla, who, along with a commission formed specifically to examine RSO funding, conducted a survey and extensive interviews with RSO leaders in order to find the best way to improve the RSO funding process.
“I think it went very well,” Quintanilla said in an interview after the vote. “It went through fully as I had proposed it and as fully as it had been created. It was 98 to 99 percent of the way [it was proposed].”
Nonetheless, several of the bylaws’ amendments were subject to substantive criticism. The most spirited debate came over the amendment which details how members are appointed to the SGFC by student government. The original draft proposed at the start of the meeting called for two RSO members, one graduate student, one undergraduate student, and two other University students to be appointed; the non–RSO members were required to be Assembly members. All of these proposals sparked contentious debate.
Both the value of and the procedure for having RSO members on the committee were debated. Some suggested that two RSO heads sitting on SGFC all year would not help SGFC better understand RSO needs, or help RSOs understand the funding process. Third-year College Council (CC) representative Prerna Nadathur unsuccessfully proposed that all RSO heads should have to attend one SGFC meeting as a method of teaching RSOs about the funding process.
“Two RSO members are only the voice of two RSOs,” said Jarrod Wolf, a third-year CC member and a candidate for SG president, in an interview after the meeting.
The debate over RSO members, which was touted by Quintanilla as the major component of his plan, was subsumed by the issue of graduate-undergraduate balance on the committee. Vigorous debate ensued over proposals to require more graduate representation on the committee, set forward by graduate Assembly members.
The first amendment proposed would make the committee makeup more predictable, requiring two undergraduate and two graduate members, as opposed to the two variable slots in Quintanilla’s plan. Kent Qian, a law student and member of the Graduate Council, advocated for this plan, citing the tendency of the Assembly to elect primarily undergraduates to the committee because graduate student attendance is weaker.
Another amendment called for more weight to be given to graduate RSO leaders who apply for spots on the SGFC, put forward by law student and Graduate Council member Frank Bednarz.
Both of these amendments passed.
The strengthened provisions for graduate student inclusion met with broad-based objections. “I am not pleased with the addition of graduate student members because it is difficult to get graduate students to attend,” said fourth-year SGFC chair Kati Proctor after the meeting was adjourned. Thursday’s meeting saw full attendance from the College Council, and 11 out of 17 members of the Graduate Council.
SG President and fourth-year Matt Kennedy agreed with Proctor, adding that additional graduate representation can make governance difficult.
“[It] consistently presents a problem when graduate students don’t show up and it’s hard to get a quorum,” Kennedy said.
Quintanilla concurred. “My one real objection is to the RSO grad-student piece,” he said. “[If] SG is required to pick a graduate student, it could lead to a less qualified student getting the position.”
Wolf, however, sided with the proponents of the amendments. “I think the graduate-representation point was valid,” he said.
Vice President for Student Affairs and graduate student Toussaint Losier said he was surprised the meeting caused so much contention.
“I know this issue has come up before in both councils,” he said. “I’m surprised that so much discussion and debate are going on right now. These concerns have been raised before.”
In an e-mail sent to the College and Graduate Councils after the meeting, Kennedy said that the ability to add oral amendments may have unnecessarily slowed the debate.
“I think it may be appropriate in the future to require amendments to be submitted in writing prior to the meeting. I think this could be a way to speed the process up and make it less confusing for everyone,” Kennedy wrote.
Overall, however, assembly members were satisfied by the outcome. Proctor called the changes “very comprehensive,” while Wolf termed them “a step forward…[that] should not stop here.”