EMeRG leaders said they are caught in the middle of a political fight between the Student Association and GW administrators that could put students’ health at risk.
For the last three years, the SA Senate has not given EMeRG, the student-run Emergencey Medical Response Group, the amount of money its members have initially requested. EMeRG is funded by both the SA and the University, but its members fear their role might change if the SA continues to cut its funding. SA senators who opposed giving EMeRG increased funds said the University should be fully funding the operational costs of the organization, but EMeRG officials said they want to remain a student organization subsidized by the SA.
“The SA is withholding funding from (EMeRG) because they feel like they do not want to pick up after the University’s slack,” said senior Matt Chow, the group’s public relations supervisor. “But it is not fair to put us in the middle, and it is hurting our ability to save students’ lives.”
EMeRG initially asked for $12,000 to pay for medical equipment, social events and EMeRG uniforms. The group was allocated $4,000 by the SA Finance Committee, and legislation was amended at Thursday night’s SA meeting in J Street to give them $6,600, up from $5,800 last year, when the group worked nights and weekends. EMeRG is now on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Chow said EMeRG still feels “slighted” by the SA’s allocation process. The increased hours have already equated to 100 patients in September while the student response team served 400 patients all of last year, he said.
“This year EMeRG has more call volume, more patients and more needs, ” Chow said. “This should equate to an increased budget.”
The University funds the student emergency response team with $70,000 through the University Police Department’s budget. UPD funds expensive equipment EMeRG needs for its operation, including the lease on its medical truck and the salaries of two staff members.
“Because of the generosity of UPD in funding big-ticket items that were necessary to help EMeRG grow, they have started to be penalized with reductions in their funding from the SA on an annual basis,” UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said. “This is a no-win situation for EMeRG students.”
“Instead of penalizing them, the entire SA should be thanking them and treating them fairly in the budget process and stop holding the fact that UPD has generously reallocated money to support EMeRG initiatives against the group,” Stafford added.
Some SA senators said the University should be fully funding the organization, even though EMeRG officials are against it.
“There is a very fine line here,” said finance chair Michelle Tanney, a senior. “EMeRG has to decide definitely if they are a student organization funded by the SA or a chartered organization funded by the University.”
While the University will fund the expensive costs for EMeRG, the SA is responsible for funding the group’s social events; some SA senators said the failure of the SA to fund these could put student’s lives at risk.
“If they cannot fund a recruit fair to get new members then we are going to have less people who are able to help our students in need,” said SA Senator Ben Traverse (CCAS-U).
Chow said EMeRG is a student organization and wants to remain one, but if EMeRG is eventually fully funded by the University, its student volunteers would be more like employees of the University, not members of a club.
But Tanney said groups such as the Cherry Tree, GW’s yearbook group and the SA itself are funded through University means but are still considered student organizations.
SA Senator Daniel Balke (CCAS-U) said he would support the University fully funding the organization but said the wishes of EMeRG participants must also be taken into account.
“We need to sit down and solve this problem to guarantee that EMeRG is going to get funding either from future SAs or from the University,” Balke added.
On Thursday, the SA Senate granted 40 percent more money to student organizations this year than it did last year.
The budget legislation must still be signed by SA President Audai Shakour.