Leadership – at a cost

It’s a basic playground principle: Play by the rules. But, years removed from the swings and sandbox, our Student Government Association (SGA) is breaking this recess commandment – and, even worse, breaking rules it set.

While other student groups fight for the scraps of the Student Activity Fee (SAF), hoping to get the maximum 10 percent the Budget Review Committee (BRC) allows, SGA has requested a cozy 21 percent increase. Common students will foot the bill for this unprecedented budget jump, while other groups will be left in the cold, wondering what happened to sharing the wealth. Why does SGA deserve this anymore than the little guys?

Although she’s not thrilled about it, SGA President Ashley Adams defends the increase, claiming it is the only option for next year’s executive board members to fulfill their duties of office. Although SGA officials must put in a required number of hours per week, other student groups still must find ways to function with much more restrained budgets. This could lead to animosity against the student government, which wouldn’t be far-fetched given its reputation.

The rules for appropriate spending – which includes not allocating funds toward stipends or scholarships – are in place so the BRC can hold student groups accountable to the student body and the student body can hold the BRC accountable, according to the SAF Manual. Thus, if SGA is breaking the rules, the BRC needs to hold the student government accountable on behalf of the student body. Someone needs to stand up for the common student.

When already-limited budget dollars go to benefit only a few student leaders, the students lose in this deal.

They’ll be digging deep to maintain the cost of scholarships lost if Vice President for Student Affairs Ed Klotzbier gets his way and the free-tuition scholarships are stripped from the SGA’s executive board.

Other incentives are in play here, as well. University President Richard Freeland and Klotzbier have pledged to match the BRC allotment for stipends, should it be passed, as a result of the SGA’s loss of the free tuition and the administrators’ implementation of the Leadership Scholars Program, Adams said. That brings the grand total of SGA’s stipend funds to $40,000, which is $40,000 more than it should have available, according to the SAF Manual.

Plus, this could have one of two negative effects: First, it could put the SGA and other student groups at odds over stipend dollars. The student government has long battled the assumption that it is an elite group that dominates the student organization pool. If it breaks the rules it holds others to, why should other groups maintain faith? Second, it opens the door for other groups to follow similar measures and wildly inflate the SAF. Who could blame a group like the Resident Student Association (RSA) for pursuing an enormous budget increase in SGA’s footsteps? If the RSA succeeds, another SAF increase probably won’t be far behind, leaving students to fork over the extra cash to cover the budget swell. If the RSA doesn’t succeed, its members would again feel as if they’ve been one-upped by the SGA.

With one student group played off against another, how can the groups be expected to trust each other?

Generally speaking, a government is only as strong as its people’s trust in it.

More specifically, how can people trust a government that doesn’t even follow the rules it uses to govern other student organizations?

If SGA wants to keep the students’ and student groups’ trust, it needs to play by the rules. It’s a courtesy we learned in elementary school.

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