The Student Association approved the allocation of $6,000 for T-shirts, buttons, banners and other material to promote a local homelessness campaign after a legislative battle that lasted more than an hour at the body’s first meeting Monday night at the Mount Vernon Campus.
GW FEED an organization chaired by SA Sen. O.G. Oyiborhoro (CCAS-U), had at least 60 supporters that flooded Post Hall after the junior initially requested $15,000 – none of which will go toward food for the District’s homeless.
“We set a precedent which has never been done before,” said Oyiborhoro, who chairs the SA student life committee. “It is not my campaign. It is sponsored by the SA.”
Despite receiving the Senate’s endorsement, not all the SA senators were content with the body’s decision.
SA Sens. Matt Cohen (SoB-U) and Nathan Brill (SoB-U) supported the idea of GW FEED, but were unhappy that the bill did not follow the normal committee referral process. A two-thirds vote brought the bill to the Senate floor without review by the finance committee.
“I think GW FEED is a phenomenal cause that should be funded,” said Cohen, vice chair of the finance committee. “However, I think as it stands today, the money should come out of the finance committee. I think it is a lot of money for the student life committee to use at its discretion. That is why there are controls and a finance committee.”
Oyiborhoro insisted the reason the bill did not follow normal legislative procedure was because the student life committee did not receive the funds Oyiborhoro said funds were allocated last year to the student life committee by former SA President Lamar Thorpe and the SA needed to act since GW FEED begins this Tuesday.
“I was forced to create a last-minute bill,” Oyiborhoro said. “I introduced this bill so we could pay.”
Cohen did not sympathize with Oyiborhoro.
“I think that is sweet as sugar,” said Cohen, a senior, during the meeting. “But the process is being railroaded. Just because he is a senator doesn’t mean he (should) get $6,000.”
The money for GW FEED will not be used to purchase food for area homeless. The $6,000 will be used to inform students about the initiative, Oyiborhoro said.
The SA has been working to reduce its expenses and save more money for student organizations. The Hatchet reported last week that the SA executive budget had been cut by more than $20,000 – all of which will go to student organizations. Kroeger said he has only $1,000 in his budget for the entire school year.
During SA budget allocations last year, only two student organizations received more than $6,000 from the SA with most receiving much less.
“(It) is a lot of money when most of the student organizations are getting between $200 and $500,” Brill said. “It is a large chunk of change.”
SA Sen. Richard Fowler (U-At Large) said initiatives such as GW FEED need to be funded to reverse the image of the “do nothing” SA.
“It is time for that to change,” Fowler said. “The (money) goes to help senators to serve.”
Fowler, a junior who chairs the finance committee, said GW FEED has the support of the University’s top administrators and student organizations.
“(The students) are happy their student government is doing something pertinent to the Foggy Bottom community and to the campus,” Oyiborhoro said.
GW FEED will have its first meeting Tuesday at the Starbucks located inside the Gelman Library. Starbucks will donate some of the money from purchases made that day to the program, Oyiborhoro said, adding that the program will participate in various homelessness initiatives in the Foggy Bottom area throughout the year.