SGA appropriation process questioned
The Youngstown State University Student Government Association, which doles out university money budgeted for student groups, has already given out 82 percent of this year’s general funds, but there are still seven months remaining on the fiscal calendar.
What’s more, out of the 41 groups that applied for funding, nearly 20 percent of the money budgeted for all of the student groups for the year went to just three of those groups.
This year, SGA was given an increase of $9,438 to provide funding for student groups. This brought the funds available for student organizations through the general fund to $41,821 for the 2013-2014 school year.
Through an appropriation process, SGA is given the power to determine what groups get funds from this budget. Even though majority of the money comes from the general fund, Chartwells — YSU’s dining services — donated $5,000 to help student groups pay for food this year. The total budget for 2013-2014, including Chartwells’ and the general fund, stands at $46,821.
According to the updated budget report handed out at the Nov. 18 full body meeting, $34,924.05 has been appropriated. Adding in what was appropriated at that meeting, SGA has allocated a total of $37,360.01 from the general fund. Of these appropriations, $3,300 has been returned to the SGA general fund because it was not used. This leaves $7,760.99 available from the general fund for further allocations in the remainder of the fall semester and the entire spring semester. There is also $3,714 remaining from the Chartwells’ budget for food.
The inconsistent division of funds has some groups frustrated with the process, while others don’t even bother trying to ask for funds.
Fiona Kelly, vice president of Room of Requirement, said she thinks the system is troubled.
“This is a problem I think a lot of people overlook until they’re in a position in a student organization where you have to go through this sort of thing because student government — they’re supposed to be here for us,” Kelly said. “They’re supposed to be a liaison between the university and the students, and it almost feels, from my perspective, that it’s gotten so corrupted that they’re kind of for themselves.”
Catie Carney, the president of SGA, said that she doesn’t believe there is favoritism present in student government.
“Money-wise? I would say ‘no’ because if you are in that group, you can’t vote on that amount or discuss or market why they deserve however much money. Coincidently enough, though, you know who’s on the body, and you know where we give our money,”
Of the 166 student groups on campus, 41 groups have asked for money this year.
Of the 39 groups who received allocations, the largest allocation was $3,100 to Zeta Tau Alpha sorority for snacks and security at The Pink Ribbon Cheer Classic. The funds were also used to host a pre-party for Cheer Classic. The second largest allocation was $2,900 to Project Learning Around the World to help fund a trip to Africa. The third largest allocation was $2,720 to the YSU Society of Black Engineers to cover hotel costs for a national conference.
This brings the total allocation to these three organizations to $8,720 or 18.6 percent of the money available to all groups.
Other groups receiving over $1,000 include: the International Student’s Association, Dana Guitar Association, Men’s Golf Club, American Marketing Association, Bridges Out of Poverty Student Union, Pi Mu Epsilon honor society, Youngstown State Exercise Science Club, Greek Campus Life, University Scholars, Alpha Phi Delta and the Interfraternity Council.
The total allocated to these 11 organizations is $15,835 — 33.8 percent of the total budget.
Organizations receiving funds less than $1,000 are four professional groups, three groups of Greek life, three sports groups, two special interest groups, four leadership and service groups, two performing arts groups, five academic groups, one religious group and one honorary society.
The total allocated to these 25 organizations is $11,255.01 or 24 percent of the total budget.
Iota Phi Theta, a fraternity, is the only group to have its request completely denied due to lack of attendance at the general body meeting where its funds were voted on. Ice Hockey was originally appropriated $2,900, but all of the money was returned because Ice Hockey is no longer a registered student group.
According to SGA’s Financial Path, a document that outlines the powers of the finance committee, each group that applies for funds may receive up to 7 percent — or $2,927.47 — of the SGA general budget. If each organization that applied were to get this 7 percent, only 14 organizations would be funded.
Along with the 7 percent maximum from the general fund, each organization is able to receive up to $200 from the Chartwells fund.
Between these two funds, the maximum amount each organization is able to receive is $3,127.47.
Tim Shreeve, vice president of YSU Ultimate Frisbee, said that he tries to be understanding, but that the amounts given do not seem balanced.
“It would make more sense if they were just cutting everyone’s budget since they have so little left, but what if a group comes to them and needs funding and it’s for something really important and because of how they’ve spent their money at the beginning of the year they can’t?” Shreeve asked.
However, the $3,127.47 cap does not stop groups from asking for what they need.
Charesse Hagan, vice president of financial affairs, said she believes this a problem that must be addressed.
“The [maximum] amount [a group can receive] should be decreased because we are tight on money and there’s a lot of things that I’m working on my committee to improve. Because if you think 7 percent of our budget, each organization — if they got the full amount — that would be $2,900, and there’s 170 organizations,” Hagan said. “We run out of money so fast.”
Hagan went on to say that she has spoken to Carney about making changes to the process. However, she said she believes that any changes must go into effect next year.
“We can’t change it this year because it wouldn’t be fair,” Hagan said.
The Appropriations Process
Carney said that the system is designed to be user-friendly.
“This is student-on-student communication, and we’re equals, and we sit across the table from each other. We’re not looking down on you; we’re not saying, ‘Well, you’re just a student,’” Carney said.
Not every group finds the process so user-friendly.
“Student Government is supposed to be there so that it’s not the students versus the university, but now it’s kind of like the student government versus the student groups,” Fiona Kelly, vice president of Room of Requirement, said.
According to SGA’s Financial Path — a document that states the financial committee’s powers — “Any registered student organization may apply for funding for a specific purpose…” However, according to the appropriations application, there is a second criterion: at least two members of each organization must have attended one of the leadership summits held at the beginning of every semester by YSU Student Activities.
“What happens is prerequisite to the meetings: the application has to be in four weeks in advance, has to be a registered group and that group had to have attended the leadership summit. If they didn’t do one of those three things, they’ll hear from Charesse [Hagan] and it’ll probably be, ‘I’m sorry; try again next semester,’” Carney said.
After an application for appropriations is submitted, the groups are notified of their meeting time with the financial committee.
At finance committee meetings held on Oct. 7 and Oct. 21, the committee heard requests from 16 groups. Each group was given five minutes to justify their request.
During this time, representatives on the finance committee asked groups questions about attending the leadership summit, requesting more funds at a later date and expected attendance at the events.
At the end of the meeting, the committee discussed how much money they believe each group should receive.
If any member of the financial committee is affiliated with a group requesting funds, they are supposed to leave the room during discussion. However, the minutes do not reflect anyone leaving the room at any financial committee meeting, even when the rules would call for this.
Typically, during a post meeting discussion, one or more representatives — which could be any of the committee members — would state a monetary amount they believe each requesting student group should receive. If all representatives do not agree on the amount, there is more discussion and other amounts are recommended.
From there, Hagan would individually ask each representative how much he/she believed the organization should receive. If no amount could be agreed on, the amount recommended to the full legislative body would be an average of all the amounts suggested by the representatives.
If, however, a representative were to state an amount he would like to give to an organization and no other representative disagrees, Hagan will ask the body if everyone agrees on the amount. If there is no dissension, that is the amount that will be presented to the full legislative body for a final vote.
Hagan confirmed that this is common practice in finance meetings. In an interview on Oct. 3, she described the appropriations process as being technical.
“The whole process — there’s no emotion, and it’s all unbiased,” she said.
However, in an interview on Oct. 18, Hagan stated that the process involved extensive personal opinion.
“When it comes to voting, it’s all opinion, and even when we decide on money, it’s our opinion,” she said.
Carney said that she trusts the committee and how it’s run.
“I’m pretty distant. I don’t go to meetings. I trust the committee. I trust Charesse [Hagan]. If they ever have questions, I’m always in the office; I can always stop by,” Carney said.
At the full body meetings — which are held every other Monday in weeks opposite to the committee meetings — the recommended amounts to each organization are voted on by the full body, excluding Carney. However, if any body member is in the group requesting money, they must abstain from voting for that group. The minutes for the full body meetings reflect these abstentions.
Although SGA assures students that the appropriations process is fair-minded and technical, deliberations at meetings may send a different message.
On Sept. 23, YSU’s Ultimate Frisbee student club requested $700 to be spent on tournament costs. The finance committee recommended $130, and the full body approved this amount.
Members of Ultimate Frisbee were unsatisfied with the amount.
“Just compared to what we need and what we’ve been getting from student government, that’s not going to get us by as a sport for an entire season,” Tim Shreeve, vice president of YSU Ultimate Frisbee, said.
Ultimate Frisbee, a club sport, receives no money from the sports budget or from The Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center. The club funds itself mostly from fundraising and membership dues just as many other student organizations.
Josh Lyder, president of YSU Ultimate Frisbee, said that he had grown accustomed to typically receiving the necessary funds from SGA. Lyder, Shreeve, and Macayla Macklin — Ultimate Frisbee treasurer — all attended the full body meeting where they found out how much money they were appropriated.
“I think after the shock, cause we all just kind of looked at each other for a second,” Lyder said. “And I said, ‘How much did you say?’ I thought maybe we misheard them or something, and they said, ‘$130,’ and I think because it was the first time we’ve ever been that short on money, we didn’t say anything at all.”
In the next SGA finance committee meeting on Oct. 7, several members of the finance committee agreed that Ultimate Frisbee should not receive any more funding this year because they were unprofessional, stormed off after hearing their allotted funds at the general assembly and complained about the process without opening dialogue properly with the finance committee.
At the same meeting Hagan stated, “We need to take into consideration that they [Ultimate Frisbee] messaged you [Ashley Orr] on Facebook and complained, and that they emailed me and complained.”
When asked about the incident in an interview on Oct. 18, she claimed that Ultimate Frisbee did not contact her.
“Ultimate Frisbee, I feel like they’re very unprofessional. They actually reached out to a member on my committee on Facebook and was complaining, and they never came to me about it, though, and I would be able to talk to them,” Hagan said.
Macklin said that after the funding amount was voted on by the general assembly, they contacted a member of SGA asking what went wrong.
“[On] Facebook, I asked Ashley. I graduated with Ashley Orr, so I asked her what we did wrong or what we could do to get more. That was really all that happened,” Macklin said.
Carney said she understood that Frisbee was confused but that their response was handled poorly.
“At the body meeting, was it flat-out rude? A little bit, but I think they were more confused than anything. I know Ultimate Frisbee. … They’re in a time of transition. I know they have a new president,” Carney said. “Can the finance committee just say, ‘No, you’re not getting more money just because we don’t like you’? No, they can’t do that.”
Another issue occurred on Oct. 14, when Iota Phi Theta, Men’s Volleyball and Men’s Golf — which the finance committee recommended to receive $125, $800 and $150 respectively — did not attend the full body meeting.
“I think we should decrease it [the amount of money]. I don’t know if we should completely cut it out because it is not a requirement to come,” Hagan said to the general body. “But look at all these students that came here, and it is not fair to them.”
What followed was a fairly lengthy discussion on whether the funding for clubs who do not attend should be cut, decreased or approved in full. There is no rule that requires clubs to attend full body meetings.
“I don’t think we should totally remove it [funding] because we did mention to these organizations that it [attendance at the full body meeting] is highly recommended. I would be in support of changing something to say they would have to come but for this purpose today, I would go against some of the previous remarks to delete completely. If anything, I would ask that we lower [the recommended allocation],” said Melissa Wasser, an SGA representative and member of the finance committee.
In the end, despite several protests against reprimanding action since there is no rule in the bylaws or financial path requiring full body meeting attendance, the general body even surpassed the option to decrease funding and instead voted down both Iota Phi Theta and Men’s Golf’s funding entirely.
Men’s Volleyball’s funding was left intact because they had contacted Hagan that the group would be unable to attend. Similarly, Men’s Golf received their money following a revote. The revote was taken after Hagan realized the president of the group had sent her an email indicating that they would not be able to make the full body meeting.
Michael Slavens, vice president of SGA, said he was unsure why the body would vote to remove funding and boiled it down to a lack of procedural knowledge.
“In that instance, I think what happened was they didn’t understand parliamentary procedure enough to know what they were supposed to do. According to the procedure, you have the motion to amend or the motion to table,” Slavens said. “There was no motion. I’m not sure if they just didn’t want to do it, [or] if they didn’t know that is how you did it.”
When asked for procedures regarding a revote, parliamentarian Emily Bosela did not respond. Attempts to find office hours for Bosela have been unsuccessful. Carney said that all officers should have posted hours, but they are not available in the student government office.
Zach Smith, the president of Men’s Golf, said that he was unaware that they even originally voted down their appropriation, and he said SGA has been good to them.
“We really appreciate what they do; it is crazy what they have given to us so far.” Smith said. “They try to take care of as many organizations as they can. We realize that, and we do not want to be one of those ones, you know, who always comes and says, ‘Hey we need $500; we need a $1000.’ We don’t want to be like that. But, I feel like it is a good resource to go to if we need to.”
In a finance meeting on Oct. 21, two groups did not show up for their meetings. Those groups were YSU Ultimate Frisbee and the Panhellenic Council.
When representatives of the committee asked about no-shows, Hagan read the Financial Path, which states, “A meeting shall be scheduled with the Committee during regularly scheduled meeting hours as determined by the Student Government Association, unless the Committee decides otherwise. Attendance at this hearing shall be mandatory. The Committee shall hold make-up hearings for missed appointments at its discretion and convenience.”
Following, Hagan said, “We can really do whatever we want pretty much because it says our discretion.”
The committee decided to reach out to the Panhellenic Council and reschedule their meeting, while they created a deadline for Ultimate Frisbee to contact them with a valid excuse as to why they missed the meeting.
Josh Lyder, president of Ultimate Frisbee, was not aware that they were supposed to contact SGA and assumed that there was no chance to reschedule.
“It says on their site attendance is necessary, so I figured it was my bad, and we’ll get it right next time,” Lyder said.
Even though SGA has faced some issues, Carney said she still believes they are on track with their original goal.
“We’re not perfect, but give me a financial committee that is perfect. Could we have given better appropriations? Probably. But at the end of the day, what are we trying to accomplish? Help groups. It’s what we do,” Carney said.