Allocation committee to replace USG finance committee next spring

Christopher Nguyen, Staff Reporter

A new committee to be elected next semester will be allocating at least 15 percent of the funding for student extracurriculars in the spring of 2018. That portion of the money is currently allocated by the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Finance Committee that will continue this role until the fall 2017 semester.

The constitution of the Student Executive Council (SEC) calls for an independently elected committee to be made by the end of the 2018-2019 school year. Members of the Student Presidents Roundtable (SPR) chose to amend the constitution and create the committee ahead of time after a disagreement earlier this spring over the USG Finance Committee’s actions and interpretation of the constitution.

The new committee is termed the Student Executive Council Allocations Committee (SECAC). The implementation of the committee is planned to be gradual, beginning with the election of its members during the campus-wide elections in the coming fall semester. During the fall 2017 semester, the members of the SECAC will be shadowing the USG Finance Committee to understand the role before assuming the job in spring 2018.

The SPR approved the changes to their constitution during a meeting on March 24, but the wording may still change and would not be implemented until approved by a campus-wide referendum beginning April 13.

Brian Ward, president of USG, expressed that the early decision to transfer financial responsibility stems from a concern that USG’s role as the allocating body would lead other members of the Student President Roundtable (SPR) to interpret biases in USG’s decisions and harm collaboration among them.

“I feel that doing so this semester, rather than by the 2018 deadline prescribed in the constitution, will be essential for USG and the SPR to be successful next year,” wrote Ward in a statement.

The SPR is made up of the presidents of the Undergraduate Student Government, the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative, the University Media Board, the University Programming Board, the Interfraternity Congress, the Panhellenic Council, the Class Officer Collective and the Residence Hall Association (RHA).

RHA is the only member that does not receive funding through the Student Activities Fee (SAF), a portion of each student’s tuition. Of that fund, SPR boards receive up to 85 percent, while the remaining 15 percent is allocated by what is currently the USG Finance Committee. During a recent meeting of the SPR, on March 24, there were disagreements about policies regarding the new body’s implementation. One point of discussion is the ability of the SPR to veto any changes made to the funds guaranteed to each SPR board. The SEC Constitution as written gives SPR veto power over the committee allocating funds.

Andrew Thompson, a member of the USG Finance Committee, proposed striking the clause from the constitution, arguing that true representation of the student body’s interests is a critical interest of the SEC Constitution. Furthermore, Thompson argued for striking the clause now, claiming that it would be much easier for SPR to reinstate a veto clause in the future, but it would be much harder for the SECAC to strike a veto clause in the future.

“In short, it’s now or never for this amendment and the democratic process,” urged Thompson in an email to all SEC members.

Garretson Oester, chair of SPR, maintains that the veto power of SPR should remain in the SEC Constitution, saying that the clause will provide stability over the course of implementing the SECAC.

“There have been extensive conversations regarding the composition of the body, and while some commentators did not side with the SPR to maintain that veto power, in its initial implementation over the coming year, that will act as a stabilizing component of the new system which future generations of students can remove,” said Oester.

Despite the disagreements that are surrounding the development of the SECAC, Oester was optimistic about the upcoming committee and how student finances would be allocated in the future.
“I am encouraged by our progress toward simplifying and clarifying how student organizations interact and collaborate on the Case Western Reserve University campus,” wrote Oester in an email. “I have seen a tremendous outpouring of ideas and feedback on our continual change and cannot wait to see how the next iteration functions.”