Commentary: SGA presented its budget dishonestly

I am writing today to express my concern with a recent action taken by the Student Government Association (SGA). I am a special-interest senator for SGA. This past Thursday, during our regular senate meeting, the annual budget proposal was presented to the senate. Unlike previous years when the budget is used for events, advertising and other goods that will help the general student body, this year’s budget asked for an abnormal increase so SGA’s executive board can receive compensation for their time spent working for the organization.

The budget that was asked for by SGA had a 21 percent increase. According to the Budget Review Committee’s (BRC) rules, no budget proposal can surpass a 10 percent increase, yet SGA is asking for more than that amount. Aside from this, no student group can ask for money that will be used for personal means. I fully understand the executive board’s efforts to help the general student body, but so do the efforts of many other presidents and vice presidents of student organizations that do not receive any sort of monetary rewards for being in their specified position.

At one point during the meeting, one of the SGA vice presidents made it seem like the money was a real “necessity,” because, even though the scholarships that were given to the executive board had been taken away by the university, the people serving SGA still need some money to be able to continue their intense labor. My biggest question: How did SGA come up with the figure of $4,000 as enough compensation for its president and $3,000 to make sure the vice president’s labor will be accurately paid for?

The budget was not presented to senate until half an hour before meeting hours ended. The decision to approve the budget needed to be discussed, digested and carefully voted on, but because of the time and the fact that other senators needed to go to classes or other obligations, some senators heard the points from the SGA executive board and gave their votes as soon as possible, darting out the door after their names were called.

When some senators opposed the budget and questioned why it had been saved until the last meeting before it had to be presented to the BRC, which it was on Monday, the executive board argued it had been a work in progress, and if it was not accepted that day, then SGA would not be able to present the budget, and SGA would risk not receiving any budget for the next academic year. If this is not a very subtle ultimatum, I don’t really know what is.

Senators were left with no choice other than to accept the budget and hope the BRC will actually follow its own rules and refuse to grant the organization this money, with which the next executive board will basically pay itself. But, if this budget is accepted by the BRC, then SGA will receive $42,735 (from which $20,000 will be allocated to the president’s and vice presidents’ positions), compared to the $35,000 received last year. As if this was not enough, senators were also told that this “need” would be matched by President Freeland and Vice President Klotzbier as a way to further help the SGA leaders, meaning that if the vice president did receive the requested $3,000, after being matched by President Freeland and Vice President Klotzbier that vice president would have $6,000 on their hands.

If I have misunderstood any of these facts, maybe it’s due to the fact that the budget was presented in a dishonest and strategized way. I find it hard to believe SGA did not have the time to explain to the senators what the new budget in-crease would cover and their reasons for asking for such an amount of money that would only benefit six people.

I also find it hard to believe that SGA officials cannot fully accept the decision made by Vice Pre-sident Klotzbier on offering the opportunity for student leadership scholarships to more than those involved in the SGA executive board positions. If the organization proved such a monetary compensation would directly benefit the entire undergraduate student body, then I would defend this budget.

Additionally, being that there are other prominent student organizations and student leaders on campus advocating and meeting the needs of the student body without being compensated, the SGA executive board’s actions directly un-dermine these groups’ efforts. I cannot support the intended misuse of Student Activity Fee funds and I hope a clear, detailed explanation for this new budget can be publicly provided for the senate and for the Northeastern student body.

– Joelison Castillo is a freshman accounting major and a Student Government Association senator.

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