Staff Editorial: The SA’s questionable ethics

Correction appended

Tuesday’s Student Association meeting demonstrated, in a nutshell, why students become so frustrated with the SA. Not only did the senate hand out allocations money in a questionable fashion, it also failed to pass Sen. Logan Dobson’s (CCAS-U) transparency bill that would have allowed students to see how the allocations money is used.

The average student could probably not care less about what happens in the average SA meeting, but the bottom line is that the SA controls a lot of money that determines programming for a lot of student organizations. The average student may not care about allocations, but if they care about student life or student organizations on campus, they should pay attention to how the SA doles out its cash.

In a stunning case of nepotism, at Tuesday’s meeting, Sen. Michelle Tanney (SPS-G) advocated on behalf of the student organization Student Political Interest Network (SPIN). She argued that the $150 SPIN received in its initial allocation was insufficient and that the group should have $2300 from the SA. Many student org leaders came to the meeting to ask for allocations increases, and this would all be fine – except that Tanney is also president of SPIN.

While Tanney’s group ultimately ended up with $700, it still received a $550 increase of its initial allocation. SPIN’s initial request had been for $900, and the finance committee had determined that it was only worthy of a $150 allocation.

This is a classic case of preferential treatment. How can student orgs without personal representation in the Senate hope to have a fair shake in the process?

Earlier in the meeting, the SA also sent Dobson’s transparency bill back to the rules committee (read: they did not pass it). Tim Miller, executive director of the Student Activities Center, encouraged the Senate to put the bill to the University’s general counsel before ruling on it.

The question becomes – what does the general counsel have to do with it? The information is already compiled in the Office of the Vice President of Financial Affairs, and provisions have been made for omitting sensitive identifying information from the public records. This is an SA issue, and for once they should prove they do want students to be more involved and open the records.

They should also seriously consider prohibiting senators from advocating on behalf of their pet student organizations. It just looks plain bad.

This editorial has been changed to reflect the following correction: (October 9, 2008)

The Student Political Interest Network did not receive the largest allocation increase. WRGW received an increase of $700, and after no initial allocation, the Chinese-American Student Alliance petitioned and received $1100.

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