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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Student Government Paid to Scrutinize Club Spending

Behind its bureaucracy, those “student initiatives”, those quorums, those “ex-officio non-voting members”, that language that reeks of impotency, sit 30 students keen on improving student engagement at UMB. The Student Government Association (SGA) controls the money that goes to campus clubs, and earlier this semester they revamped their constitution to improve this process.”[Now] it’s basically like the system in the US. There’s no reason to invent something new when we already know a system that works,” said Dan McDowell the Campus and Community Affairs Chairman.McDowell played a large part in rewriting the new SGA Constitution. He described the new three-branch system – executive, legislative and judicial – as a way of creating accountability within the senate. Under this system the President is elected by popular vote from the Student Body, along with the Senators, but Judges and the various chairs in the Senate are elected from within.This part of the new constitution has become contentious for some students, because Student Senators are now paid based on their positions in the Senate. They never got compensated for their work before – beside the occasional pizza party. And some students worry with the extra incentives for Senate Chairs there is the possibility of corruption.Tara DeSisto, UMB Student Trustee, said that Senators deserve to get paid, but finds the promotion system within the senate somewhat disturbing.”If they were actually elected by the student body to hold their position rather than elected among themselves, their pay would be more appropriate,” DeSisto said.Last semester the Budget and Finance Committee took away the Student Trustee’s $500 yearly Discretionary Fund. DeSisto claimed that this was a personal attack against her, because she made enemies in the Senate last semester by requesting copies of the budget and getting involved in committee meetings where other Senators said she was not welcome.”I’d use [the $500] mainly to get to the Trustee meetings, which happen all over Massachusetts. So it’s not a big deal, which is why it’s weird that they took it,” DeSisto said.Spiteful squabbles over small amounts of money escalate easily within the Student Senate, which is one reason they drafted the new constitution. Ultimately as one student representative (who preferred to remain nameless) pointed out, the Student Government’s power is largely ceremonial. Administrators keep a tight reign on the Senate’s budget, and club advisors keep their eyes on the student funds as well.Students fear that funding feuds may be exacerbated after next semester, because student organizations will loose their carry forwards – all the extra money that was unspent the year before. This is a result of new administrative policies to hone in spending.In order to make sure that all student funds are spent by the end of the year, the Student Government rearranged their bylaws and constitution, so they have more say in how clubs spend their money. By adding a few bureaucratic obstacles between student ideas and funding, senators hope to promote honesty.Shaneia Nelson, a UMB junior who works with the Disabilities Center, said she understands the need to control spending – but pointed out individual students who were misusing student funds should be dealt with individually.”Now we have to do way more recording. We have to be approved to spend money on an event before we spend anything. Basically we’re not in as much control of things as we used to be,” Nelson said.Now funding requests for events must go through Club Advisors, and the Senate, before clubs can begin planning anything.”They felt that students were just buying food. Then there would be a whole lot of money left at the end of the year without much result,” Nelson said.Despite its inconveniences, Student Senators say that the new system will distribute money fairly, thus improving student engagement at UMB.”The new system allows the most active and productive clubs a better ability to put on large events. The vast majority of clubs don’t ever need to ask [the Senate] for supplemental funding. Under the new system hopefully we’ll be able to fund even more events that will benefit the most students possible,” McDowell said.Whatever the case, under the new system, students in the Student Government will benefit. Whether the rest of the students at UMB will as well is yet to be seen.

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010