Student organizations will receive more funding from the Student Association in the coming months than during the previous fiscal year, following the SA Senate’s unanimous approval of budget allocations at its meeting Monday.
Senators unanimously approved $431,000 in budget allocations for student organizations through October, marking a nearly 60 percent jump in funding compared to the $270,660 distributed in Fiscal Year 2021. Senators and student leaders have said the rise in allocations will support more student organization events next year, when they anticipate more in-person activities returning to campus as the University continues a “phased reopening” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The senate first passed this year’s budget allocations for student organizations during its previous term in April, but SA Sen. Yan Xu, ESIA-U, the chair of the finance committee and the legislation’s sponsor, called for the senate’s approval to ensure updated support for upcoming funding.
“This bill is approved by the previous senate, and I would also want it to be approved by this senate so everyone can have a same understanding and everyone can be on the same page,” Xu said.
Budget allocations will only last until October this year before student organizations will need to submit a second request for spring semester funding – a new schedule the SA created to offer students more time to gauge the level of in-person activity upon returning to campus.
“The reason we allocate our budget only throughout October is, even though we are pretty sure that we are going back to campus, we still do not understand what type of activity we are allowed to host,” Xu said. “For example, if people are vaccinated, are we allowed to host indoor large group or outdoor large group activities or other kinds of activities?”
Xu said the bill will allocate funds to the SA’s three governmental branches for the 2021-2022 academic year, with $26,500 for the legislative branch, $53,000 for the executive branch and $500 for the judicial branch. The SA’s bylaws require the senate to allocate one-third of its operational budget to the legislative branch, two-thirds to the executive branch and $500 to the judicial branch each year.
The senate unanimously confirmed two justices – one undergraduate and one graduate – to serve in the Student Court, filling two vacancies on the bench. The court updated its bylaws during its last meeting to align with the recently amended SA constitution, renaming judges as justices, increasing the number of justices from five to seven and widening the court’s jurisdiction for students outside the SA.
Rising senior Fatmah Noredin, the newly confirmed undergraduate justice, said she served on the executive board of the Black Law Student Association and worked for the GW Undergraduate Law Review as a researcher. She said her experience writing proposals for the law review, which were approved by legal scholars, will help her stay impartial on the court and interpret documents as a justice.
“I had the challenge of remaining impartial about a topic I felt strongly about, but it allowed me to understand the nuances of the issue and strengthen my argument,” Noredin said.
Rising second-year law student William Brown, the newly confirmed graduate justice, said he’s come to appreciate the work of the SA because of his experience serving on his undergraduate student government at Le Moyne College. Brown said he hopes to remain unbiased with any cases filed with the court, regardless of whether students involved are in the SA.
“’I’m grateful for the opportunity, and my goal is to continue the court’s fair and impartial resolution of issues that come before it,” Brown said. “I believe my education as a law student has provided me with the tools necessary to be an effective justice.”
The court also elected rising third-year law student Yun-Da Tsai as the new chief justice at its last meeting. Tsai said the court may still need to reach conclusions on potential changes to the SA’s constitution, such as whether the Joint Elections Commission should be considered an official arm of the SA, should any such cases be filed in the court.
“The constitution still needs fixing,” Tsai said. “There’s some leftover language like the Student Association Congress and the Joint Elections Committee that needs to be fixed.”
The senate tabled legislation to establish secretaries within the executive branch until the next meeting because not enough senators were present to vote with a two-thirds majority.
Senators unanimously approved all nominees for senate staff positions, like senate chief of staff, senate secretaries and senate parliamentarian. SA President Brandon Hill said he has not completed the vetting processes for executive staff positions, like policy advisers and executive secretaries, so he has not brought them to the senate for confirmation yet.
“At the end of the day I would rather have a thorough and fairly vetted process for all members of the executive branch than to just blindly appoint individuals,” Hill said. “Several cabinet position applicants have accepted positions in the executive branch, and they will be sent to the senate certainly to go through committee to committee and the full senate confirmation processes.