As a new Student Association Senate prepares for a year of debate and decision-making, some student groups may receive reduced funding from the legislative body.
Jordyn Cosme (U-At-Large), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he is proposing a plan that would grant money to student groups based on their spending in previous years. He said that this plan would allow the SA to keep more money in its co-sponsorship fund, which allocates extra resources to groups that spend their original allotments.
“This is basically an idea that would allow the SA to grant increased funds through co-sponsorships throughout the year,” Cosme said. “Groups who are spending money responsibly will not see lower funding.”
Cosme said that in upcoming weeks, he will begin the process of examining the budgets of on-campus organizations. But at a vote on the initiative at last week’s Senate meeting, senator Chris Layfield opposed the measure, saying it could potentially hurt some student groups.
“It’s an interesting idea,” said Layfield, who sat on the finance committee last year. “I don’t like the idea of reducing student organizations’ allocations, but this will allow increased money in the co-sponsorship fund, which would be available to students throughout the entire year.”
Another major issue facing this year’s Senate will be the Student Rights and Responsibilities Act. Sen. Ben Traverse (U-CCAS), who is chairman of the Senate’s Rules Committee, said the legislation would give students a clear idea of their rights and the University’s regulations they are obliged to follow.
“It’s important that we have one packet of students’ rights and responsibilities where people can turn to look at all the guidelines that govern them as a student,” Traverse said. “Right now there are six or seven documents that we look at, and some of those documents don’t even match up.”
Anyah Dembling, the Senate’s executive vice president, praised Traverse for his work on ethics and responsibilities in the SA and said she supports the measure.
“I think this issue will depend on how it is met by the University, but so far all the administrators I’ve talked to have been in support of it,” she said.
Dembling also commented on the large number of new members on this year’s Senate, which features only three returning representatives. She said the new group will be focusing on improving the governing group, which was marred by accounting errors and a scandal over misreported funds last year.
“A lot of senators ran on reform and change in the SA,” Dembling said. “I think that these fresh senators aren’t going to be jaded by the past failures of the SA and are all determined to succeed in serving the student body.”
One student who will not be part of this year’s Senate is J.P. Blackford, who served on the body for 10 years as an undergraduate and graduate student. Blackford was involved in a scandal two years ago involving alcohol purchases with SA funds. After resigning from the Senate, he was re-elected last year; but he failed to win another term for the 2004-05 school year. Blackford refused to comment for this story, demanding pre-approval of any story naming him.
“It was a very important stand to take this year to finally flush out the old government and let a new group of student leaders who aren’t involved with that scandal take over,” Traverse said. “Basically it’s been a changing of the guard and not electing J.P. back into the Senate is symbolic of that.”
Other students who worked with Blackford said the Senate has lost a skillful member.
“J.P. is a genuinely a nice guy,” said SA President Omar Woodard, a former senator who filled Blackford’s empty spot on the finance committee two years ago. “He was a wealth of knowledge and a dedicated senator, but he could be manipulative and ultimately lost control.”
Woodard gave the annual State of the SA address at the Senate’s meeting last week and called for unity in the Senate and other branches of the governing organization.
“We are all in this together,” Woodard told the Senate. “We are one Student Association all working towards the same goal of serving the student body as best as possible.”