The Student Assembly heard arguments last Thursday concerning a resolution that would include non-Student Government (SG) members as voting members of Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC). SGFC allocates tuition money to Registered Student Organizations.
David Courchaine, who introduced the topic for discussion, said at the meeting that he was not going to officially introduce the resolution for a vote because it might be shot down by SG members who wanted to maintain their monopoly on SGFC funding power.
Courchaine, a first-year in the College, said at the meeting that he would take the issue to the students. The constitution says that he needs 5 percent of the student body to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in the fall when the student body votes for Student Assembly.
Later, Courchaine said that most opposition came from SG members that sat on SGFC this year.
According to Courchaine, president-elect Robert Hubbard said to him, "You better be ready for a fight next year [concerning SGFC's membership]."
Hubbard, who sat on SGFC this year, declined to comment.
According to Courchaine, the inspiration for the change came during the Annual Allocations (AnnAl) debates. This year there were three SG members and five non-SG RSO leaders sitting on AnnAl. Courchaine sat on AnnAl this year.
The most intense issue of the debate involved the amount of money to be allocated to Student Government. After SG and non-SG members debated, the committee developed a logical system of analyzing the requests. The committee eventually compromised. "If the debate had included only SG members, the allocations would quickly have been approved," said Courchaine. "A mix gave the debate more balance hopefully we can extend this balance to all [funding] matters."
AnnAl makes allocations to RSOs for yearly budgets, while SGFC allocates on a per-event basis.
In the aftermath of the meeting, it was hard to determine who had opposed the idea because minutes for the meeting were not online. Courchaine said that the opposition came from current members of SGFC. They include: Hubbard, Cameron Downing, Yenisey Rodriguez, Erin Horne, Miriam Freedman, Vincenzo Barbetta, and Ben Mainzer. Mainzer, as the chair, does not vote on funding decisions.
The proposal was so contentious because the executive slate, which consists of Robert Hubbard and vice presidents Ananya Das and Bret Kadison asked for nearly twice as much money as had been asked for last year. Rush Atkinson, the undergraduate student liaison to the Board of Trustees also filed the budget for AnnAl.
The extra money is designated to go to updating and otherwise maintaining the Elections, SGFC, and AnnAl websites, and to advertising and marketing what student government is doing.
The incoming executive slate asked for $71,810. According to Courchaine, the slate inflated their requests, a common tactic used by RSOs. The AnnAl committee decided to go through the proposal line by line and take out the funding that that the slate could get elsewhere. Then they evaluated the rest of the proposal.
The slate received about $1,000 to run Student Assembly elections early next year and funding to run a pilot program that will keep the Reynolds Club open later. The final funding decision was for about $15,000.
Courchaine commended the quality of the proposal. "It was a very detailed proposal that the slate put together," he said.
Some of the funding that was cut was earmarked for community outreach programs, a marketing task force, a "graduate student engagement initiative," and an administrative lunch meeting.
Courchaine said that it didn't make any sense to him that AnnAl would have a mix of SG members and non-SG RSO leaders, while SGFC has only SG members. "It seemed like they made a mistake in the original constitution, and that we should fix it."
Courchaine wrote a four-page argument distributed before the Student Assembly meeting. He acknowledged that RSO leaders would be biased toward RSOs. Why then, he asked, are RSO leaders allowed on AnnAl?
The argument that he wrote also addressed the issue of the appointed RSO leaders being able to avoid elections and politics. The argument addressed the point that "SGFC is a reward for SG members' hard work and commitment. "
Courchaine's response was that "SGFC should not be a reward; it should be an extra responsibility that is taken on voluntarily. RSO leaders may or may not have had to campaign to get where they are, but they certainly had to go through a lot of work to become an RSO leader. They prove themselves in a different way than campaigning."