March 6, 2009

Maroon criticisms of SGFC miss the point

It’s easy to find fault from an armchair.

Once again, the Maroon attacks the Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC), a body of volunteers who meet every week to disburse just 15 percent of the Student Activities Fee. The Maroon has called this a “large chunk” (11/14/08), and demands that the votes should be recorded (3/3/09), presumably so that students can hassle members for voting in favor of grossly mischaracterized events (2/26/09). I don’t know what purpose this serves—the hyper-scrutiny of the SGFC is irrational to begin with.

Next quarter, the six Program Coordinating Council (PCC) chairs will allocate among themselves twice what SGFC spends all year. Votes won’t be recorded, and it’s unclear why they would be: self-selected PCC leaders form a consensus about their own allocations with only token Student Government representation. Unlike SGFC and Annual Allocations (AnnAl), their decisions are not reviewed by the Assembly.

Next quarter, AnnAl will also meet for allocations. Over five days, they also will disperse more money than SGFC does all year. Those representatives have already been selected, and insofar that their views guide the future of RSO spending, the Maroon turns a blind eye. Instead, the Maroon focuses a burning magnifying glass on a more accountable group, SGFC, which holds the least amount of power.

SGFC members have arguably the most demanding job in Student Government. Not only are their meetings long and frequently the subject of lazy attacks, but their decisions aren’t even binding. Formally, members of College Council or Graduate Council–Finance Committee can replace SGFC recommendations with whatever they see fit.

SGFC exists to fund unplanned RSO funding requests, and they are mindful that not all requests can be funded in full (unlike the Maroon, 11/14/08). Every week, the committee is confronted with a half dozen or more dilemmas; should the group before them receive funding? Would the proposed event enhance student life compared to the innumerable alternatives?

SGFC repeatedly makes subtle decisions and tradeoffs. As a sometimes-member of the committee, I’m mindful of that when reviewing their decisions. It’s easy to find fault from an armchair.

Frank Bednarz

Graduate Council, Finance Committee

Law School Class of 2009