USG Senate seeks to smooth out funding issues
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 00:03
At the Undergraduate Student Government’s informal senate meeting Wednesday night, the senators continued discussions on how to smooth out the funding process this semester and suggested using the group’s biweekly caucus as a forum to go over funding legislation before it is brought to a vote.
This semester, USG implemented a new process for allocating money from the “emergency fund” to on-campus organizations. The new system requires Tier II groups to draft a bill sponsored by two senators that is then put up to a vote in front of the senate.
The past two senate sessions have seen lengthy debates, concerns about over-allocating and ideological divisions between senators about what types of activities USG should be funding.
To save time at the formal Senate meetings, the senators agreed to use the informal meeting, which happens every other week opposite the formal meetings, to discuss the legislation and get an idea of how the Senate will act before it is put up to a vote.
USG Senator Hailey Manfredi said, “We should at least know exactly how much money [the organization] is requesting beforehand. We should be able to talk about it objectively in caucus.”
Currently, the emergency fund has about $3,896.30, compared to about $20,000 the fund held at the start of the spring semester. However, this fund can grow as money is returned to USG from groups that received funding previously and either did not use it all or had to cancel the event the funds were intended for.
Additionally, USG Comptroller and presidential candidate Edward Courchaine, aid he is working to move money from USG committees to the reserve fund to bolster it, though any amount over $200 will require Senate approval.
However, a division remains between senators regarding whether or not the low number in the emergency fund is a sign of too much generosity and whether senators should be evaluating the requests objectively, or with consideration of the requests’ “merits.”
Shiv Gandhi, the speaker of the USG Senate and candidate for USG President, echoed current USG President Stephen Petkis’s warning that the senators have to learn how to say “no.”
“It’s our job to determine the merits [of the request] and allocate funds as we see fit,” Gandhi said at the informal meeting. “We can decide not to fund something. The money isn’t always going to be there.”
USG Funding Board Chair John Giardina agreed, saying that it is important to consider whether funding a request is an appropriate use of the emergency fund.
“The first time around we saw a lot of things being funded that wouldn’t necessarily be classified as emergencies,” Giardina said. “The second week [we began] really looking at true emergencies, which shows the system can work. This fund is meant to cover the emergencies that groups weren’t able to anticipate for.”
The new legislative funding system, which was largely unpopular among senators following its inaugural Senate session in early February, is gaining approval as the senators become accustomed to the process.
“It’s definitely improving each week,” Courchaine said. “Anyone whose been working in the details of the process understands it would take a miracle to work perfectly the first time.”
Gandhi, however, said there is a fundamental problem with the system.
“We need comprehensive funding reform,” Gandhi said. “Even if we believe the system is sound, the people who rely on the system [for funding] may not. In which case, it’s our responsibility to reevaluate.”
Gandhi said comprehensive funding reform would be a focus for his administration should he be elected USG president.