Student Association Senate overhauls financial process

Funding for student organizations will be doled out in a dramatically different way next year, after the Student Association Senate voted unanimously to overhaul the financial allocations process in its final meeting of the year Tuesday.

The Senate Finance Committee will be required to distribute 85 percent of the SA’s funding to student organizations during initial allocations starting this fall.

The process is different from the way the body has traditionally distributed funds, which neared $ 1 million this year, allocating about half the available funding in initial allocations and reserving the rest for co-sponsoring student organization events throughout the year.

Finance Committee chair Chris Clark, the bill’s sponsor, said the reforms will make the allocation process more fair.

“The whole senate would be looking at it, not just the one committee. It makes [the allocation process] less subjective in the long run,” Clark, U-at large, said. “This makes it much more fair across the board.”

The full SA Senate votes to approve the initial allocations bill, whereas event co-sponsorships are approved at the SA Finance Committee’s discretion.

SA President Jason Lifton spoke several times strongly in favor of the measure.

“Right now, groups aren’t able to budget for their events because student groups don’t get a clear amount of funding in the beginning,” Lifton said. “There’s more wiggle room than we give them now.”

Incoming SA Finance chair John Bennett voiced the strongest opposition, although he said he ultimately voted in favor of the measure because Student Activities Center Executive Director Tim Miller supported it.

Tuesday’s vote came on the heels of the SA Senate-elect’s first meeting Monday, during which a new graduate student-heavy finance committee for next year was formed. Monday’s appointments more than doubled the number of graduate students on the committee compared to this past year. Seven graduate senators will serve on the committee, which has 11 members total, including a chair.

The committee assignments closely match a list provided to The Hatchet and allegedly circulated among members of the SA Senate-elect prior to voting. Of the 10 senators named on the list for the SA Finance Committee, nine were appointed during Monday’s meeting.

The list also correctly names who would be named chairs of the SA Senate’s three committees: Bennett to the SA Finance Committee, Elena Gillis, ESIA-U, to the SA Academic Affairs Committee and Josh Goldstein, CCAS-U, to the SA Student Life Committee.

Sen. Bob Kickish, SHMS-G, appointed to the SA Finance Committee, confirmed he received the list in an e-mail.

“I just got an e-mail that said who to vote for,” he said.

Kickish said despite the expanded graduate representation, the committee would function the same as past years, but added graduate students had coordinated efforts to form committees to guarantee their funding.

“The undergraduates don’t have to worry. We’re only going to allocate the money to ourselves that we deserve,” Kickish said.

Incoming chair Bennett also denied the graduate-heavy make-up would affect the committee’s business.

“Normally [the SA Finance Committee] has been dominated by undergrads,” Bennett said. “It’s like having a super-senior on the committee. I don’t look at them as separate.”

Among the graduate students on the new SA Finance Committee are Chervinsky and James Bonneau, U-at large – both former members of the Joint Elections Committee, the body that oversees SA elections. Chervinsky also served as vice president for judicial and legislative affairs this past year. Patrick Hanley, SMHS-G, another new member, served on the SA Senate when he was an undergraduate.

In response to the bill’s passage, Vice President of Judicial and Legislative Affairs Jacob Chervinsky – who will serve on the SA Finance Committee next year as an SA senator representing the GW Law School – filed a lawsuit against Lifton and Clark, alleging the bill was unconstitutional and arguing the SA’s incumbent senate has “no power to amend funding guidelines or budget procedures after the commencement of the transition period.” SA power will officially change hands April 29.

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