Campus leaders differ over new constitution when funding student groups

Kushagra Gupta, Director of Print

Student groups entering the spring semester already have set budgets, but some of those few in need of extra funding received it last week.

Last Thursday, Feb. 2 the Student Executive Council (SEC) Finance Committee approved $150,000 in extra funding for groups using the money for a large portion of students or for charitable activities.

Through the process it became clear that members of the committee and the Student Presidents Roundtable (SPR) differ in their interpretation of the new constitution approved by a campus-wide referendum for funding extracurriculars.

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).

The day before the SEC Finance Committee’s meeting, the SPR held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 1 to discuss whether the constitution permitted the finance committee to reallocate different shares of each board’s budget after such a plan was discussed at a prior finance committee meeting.

Many members of the roundtable voted to accelerate the process of forming a new finance committee. All members voiced support for the SEC Finance Committee to take the maximum five percent cut allowed from each board over uneven cuts.  

Based on the amount it chose to fund, the SEC Finance Committee voted to take the maximum cut allowed from each board the following day.

The constitution appoints the USG Finance Committee to be the SEC Finance Committee until spring 2019. The committee is made up of twelve individuals, including Tommy Pierre, head of the SEC Finance Committee. Eight individuals were elected from campus-wide elections at the end of the semester and three individuals were appointed by the USG General Assembly.

RHA President, Andrew Dupuis, explained that he had asked for an emergency meeting over waiting for the next regular meeting to “clarify and get on the same page.”

According to Dupuis and J.P. O’Hagen, chair of the University Media Board, the constitution implies that only the same percent of each boards budget can be cut.

“We have been going off of what [the constitution] says,” said Pierre. “Regardless of intent, there’s nothing in here that says that initial proposal, or anything we have acted on, is unconstitutional.”

On top of the concerns with regard to the plan’s constitutionality, many at the SPR meeting also expressed concern that cutting different percentages of each board’s budget was unfair.

According to Pierre, the boards were placed in three separate brackets, receiving either a third, two-thirds or a complete cut of five percent based on an audit conducted in fall 2016. The audit graded the boards over categories such as

Finance Committee Member Andrew Thompson, came up with much of the plan for the brackets.

“… All [those who pay tuition] want the money to come back to them in some way,” said Thompson. “… All of them have invested interest in spending less on just pure giveaways, and more spent on good quality programs.”

USG President Brian Ward felt that other boards would always be concerned about the SEC Finance Committee being tilted in favor of USG. Pierre also believed that a committee not formed out of one board would reduce disagreements between the members of the roundtable.

The SPR will next meet on Friday, Feb. 10 in the Tinkham Veale University Center’s Gaming Room. The meeting is open to all students.

Additional reporting by Celia Wan, News Editor, Edward Kerekes, Sports Editor, Eamon Sheehan, Staff Reporter and Chris Nguyen, Staff Reporter.