Commentary: SGA budget violates its creators’ rules

At last week’s Student Govern-ment Association (SGA) meeting, in an hour and a half, the student senate passed a “Sense of the Student Senate” regarding the recent criticisms of Lane Health Center.

This was then negated by the passing of the SGA budget. The budget not only was approved in a rushed manner but clearly violated the Student Activity Fee (SAF) Manual that as an organization we created, implemented and used to govern over 200 student groups on campus. It blatantly contradicts Section 6.3 of the SAF Manual, which states that the SAF will not cover “stipends/awards/scholarships.”

Not only did the organization’s budget leave a sour taste in my mouth, but it left me absolutely disgusted by the voting senators’ disregard for the student body. For an organization that has been trying to abolish stereotypes, they have reaffirmed any “insider organization” criticisms that have been plaguing the organization.

Because I was on co-op for two of the past three years I was involved with SGA, I have previously missed out on voting on the organization’s yearly budget. This budget then goes to the Budget Review Committee (BRC) to be either approved or denied.

Had I been around to vote in the past, I would have voted against the budget then as well. I do not believe in special circumstances and I do not agree with the attitudes behind placing the stipends in the budget. Clearly, many of the younger senators are not aware that student government has been reprimanded in the past for being an “insider organization” and “elitist.” With all due respect to my peers and the executive board, this is not fair, nor is it right.

As previously mentioned, the SAF Manual states the SAF will not fund stipends, awards or scholarships. On Thursday, the student senate passed the SGA budget with a 21 percent increase (in violation of the BRC’s rule stating that the budget can increase by no more than 10 percent) from last year that is attributed to including stipends for the six executive board members. In previous years, the budget has included stipends for the top two positions, President and Executive Vice President, in addition to the scholarships now being revoked by a new program instituted by Vice President Ed Klotzbier and Director of Student Leadership John Silveria. I voted against this budget because I do not believe in special exceptions, and I do not believe in exceptions that only benefit a small group of individuals. I do not believe any organization should operate above the rules it creates.

As a student leader myself, I personally commend Silveria and Klotzbier’s work. I feel that there are many qualified student leaders who deserve recognition and a chance to grow. However, I recognize the SGA’s executive board members represent the entire student body.

It must be noted, though, last summer, the Resident Student Association was criticized harshly for instituting its own stipends with the resident activities fee, which is a part of our tuition fees. Shouldn’t student government be held to the same standards? Why shouldn’t the student senate, or the student body for that matter, ask questions as to why they feel the BRC should make an “exception” to the rule because they’re losing their scholarships? The SAF exists to fund programming, and each year there is a handful of programs that do not receive funding. How is it beneficial to the student body to take over $10,000 from the SAF pool to fund stipends that will later be matched by the Office of Student Affairs?

I know SGA makes a difference on this campus; I am in no way trying to undermine any of the hard work members of this organization do. However, scholarships or no scholarships, stipends or no sti-pends, this should not stop any senator from wanting to run for an executive board position. It also should not stop the work executive board members do to advocate for the student body.

Special exceptions to the rule for one’s own benefit diminishes credibility, which is something everyone in that organization has worked tirelessly to rebuild after two years of bad press because of “scandals.”

I recognize and commend the effort and hard work this year’s executive board members have put into SGA and their advocacy for the student body. However, any student who is really dedicated to any organization should be able to do the work with or without a stipend or scholarship, and I challenge future executive board members of the SGA to do just that.

If you really care about the student body and really want to make a difference, try being like all the other student leaders on this campus who make a difference on student life here at Northeastern day in and day out without any scholarships or recognition. Try that and then talk about student government’s dedication to advocating for the student body.

– Heidi Buchanan is a senior political science major and a Student Government Association senator.

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