With current heads bowing out, finance committee’s gavel is up for grabs

For the first time in at least five years, the Student Association Senate’s finance committee won’t be led by a senator who has already served as chair or vice chair.

But past and present members of the committee said the lack of institutional knowledge won’t negatively impact the nine-student group, which is tasked with allocating the SA’s $1.1 million budget to roughly 500 student organizations.

The current chair, junior Ben Pryde, is running for SA president, giving up his shot at serving in the senate for his third year. Caroline Bourque, the committee’s vice chair, said she chose not to run for a spot in the SA this year so she could pursue other opportunities like internships. Bourque has taken over Pryde’s responsibilities as chair during his campaign, though he has not officially stepped down.

Only two senators currently serving on the finance committee are running for re-election. Nancy Mannebach is the only undergraduate member of the committee running for re-election. She said members of the committee are involved in the processes regardless of who is the chair, adding that priorities, like making allocations more transparent, will remain the same.

“They do have a lot of responsibilities the rest of us don’t have, but I think that’s also what someone as chair makes it,” she said. “I think delegation is a really important part of it and everyone has the knowledge to deal with the situation because we are all coming to the final decision, but we don’t always do the nitty gritty.”

Chris Stillwell, who has sat on the finance committee for three years, said Mannebach is likely to become chair if she wins the race for one of the two U-at-Large senatorial positions.

“She has already started asking questions to me, to Ben, to Caroline, trying to figure it all out,” he said. “They need to know all the rules beforehand. Even Nancy will have to train from when she gets re-elected – if she does – from then until the end of the year to adjust to the new role as chair.”

The chair and vice chair oversee how the committee divvies up the money to student organizations and help organizations’ leaders apply for additional dollars for events and other purposes. The committee came under fire last year after major student organizations, including GW College Democrats and the Organization of Latino American Students, saw huge cuts in funding because of improperly filed paperwork.

Tim Miller, the director of the Center for Student Engagement and the SA’s adviser, said he thought the tradition of the vice chair succeeding the chair each year was “weird” and that he liked the idea of having a new person lead the group.

“This should not be a guaranteed job year-to-year,” he said. “There’s always turnover even when they go vice chair to chair, there’s still changes. So I don’t know that an entirely new person even matters.”

John Bennett, who served as chair of the finance committee in 2012, said that when he was a member of the group, he did not receive any formal training, but he quickly learned how to act in his role. He said chairs need to learn how different organizations function, but turnover should not have too significant of an impact on how the committee works with student groups.

“As long as a couple of people are there to anchor the position, with the longer context of having a lot of organizations in there, change is not a bad thing,” he said.

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