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SU votes ‘no’ on initial amendment

November 18th, 2010

An amendment to transfer control of student union budget board was defeated; another bill will be voted on

An amendment to the Student Union By-Laws that would transfer the power of control of the Student Organization Budget Board (SOBB) from one position to another was defeated by the Senate at Tuesday’s meeting. Control of SOBB would be switched from the power of the vice president for student organizations to the vice president for business affairs.

The measure, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, gained only 11 out of the 12 necessary “yes” votes, while three senators voted “no,” two abstained, and two were not in attendance.

Another bill that would make this change and further outline the duties of both offices was tabled, to be voted on at the next Senate meeting. One of the duties included in the bill is that the vice president of student organizations will run bi-weekly town hall meetings for the Legion of Student Organizations.

Both pieces of legislation, which called for the changes to take effect with the new executive board and Senate in January, caused controversy at the Senate meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9. Many senators were disappointed that the bill was introduced after elections for next calendar year’s Student Union executive board took place.

“It is my understanding that the students voted for vice president of business affairs and VP [for student organizations] armed with the understanding [of the] certain duties of each office,” junior Senator Sean Cahill said at the meeting. “So that this is being proposed after the election, I think the unconstitutionality of these bills [is] kind of staggering.”

Cahill also noted that during the debate for a senior accountability bill at the beginning of this school year, it was said that the measure would not apply to the current senior senators.

“That’s the exact same principle – we cannot change the rules after the game has started,” he said.

Vice President for Student Organizations Chelsey Neuhaus, who requested the legislation, had concerns about the VP for business affairs having too much control over financial aspects and waited to OK the structure of the bill with other Student Union leaders.

“This was discussed at [an] exec[utive] board [meeting], between me and Michael [Fox], and I also personally discussed this with the former VP [of student organizations],” she said.

Even though the legislation was brought to the Senate after the executive board elections, according to Student Union President Amanda Papa, the candidates for VP for business affairs and VP for student organizations were made aware of the potential changes to their duties.

Under the current process, due dates for student organizations to turn in requests for money and SOBB meeting dates are set by the vice president for student organizations. The VP for student organizations then submits the results of board meetings to the VP for business affairs, who makes the fund transfers. If an organization is unhappy with the amount of money it received from SOBB, appeals are sent to the vice president for student organizations.

“As the process stands right now, you have to put [purchases] on your credit card or pay up front, and then give me the receipt. People didn’t know who to give their receipts to because I’m just the very last step,” said Fox, Student Union’s VP for business affairs. “Right now, it’s not the VP [of] business affairs’ job to sit on [SOBB]. They’re approving money [and] I don’t know what’s going on even though I get an e-mail statement saying, ‘Can you do this budget transfer?’”

Sophomore Senator Greg Petsche, who co-sponsored both pieces of legislation, explained the goals of the bills at the same meeting.

“It’s eliminating the middleman,” he said. “Business affairs will be dealing strictly with the monetary aspects of Student Union and the VP of student organizations can focus on communication, development, planning [and] logistics for other student organizations.”

Sophomore Megan Lowes, who serves as an officer in numerous organizations on campus, was frustrated to hear about the potential changes to which VP would control SOBB.

“I felt that these bills should have been brought up before the election, because it seems to be unfair for a campaign to be run based on jobs that may no longer be available to the person who would be in charge of them,” she said.

However, Lowes also believes the process needs to be more streamlined. Two organizations she is a part of have experienced problems with slow reimbursement. One of the reimbursements for one of the organizations has not arrived yet.

“My only hope for this is that the Senate is able to come up with a plan that will benefit all of the student organizations,” she said. “Money is very important to the success of running our organizations, and who does get to be in charge of the funds should make it their top priority to make sure that all organizations are reimbursed of the funds that they need or were granted.”

Neuhaus was disappointed that the amendment to the by-laws did not pass.

“I think that the intention of the bill was misunderstood as to be not one that truly had the best intentions of student organizations at heart,” she said. “I don’t think it was seen as a change that would be a permanent change, but just applicable to one person, which was not the case.”

Junior Senator Peter Hayden, the vice president-elect for student organizations, feels the bill has great ideas, but he has concerns over certain parts. Namely, he was concerned that the power to appoint SOBB board members will be transferred to the vice president for business affairs.

“I would like to see that as a joint effort between both myself and [Vice President-Elect for Business Affairs] Andrew Burns,” Hayden said.

The friendly amendments that were to be offered concerning changes to the bill were not offered at the meeting.

“There was no formal agreement concerning the appointment procedures but rather continued deliberation in the hopes of reaching some sort of mutual compromise,” Burns said. “These friendly amendments were not offered at the Senate meeting because the discussion Pete and I had did not include the other sponsors of the bill including the student who requested the bill in the first place, foregoing other opinions that may have added insight to the discussion.”

Hayden, who voted for passage of the bill, said the absence of two Senators and the abstentions of another two contributed to the defeat of the bill.

“People walked into the Senate and, I think, had their mind made up already in terms of voting,” he said “When you have two senators absent, that puts a whole twist in the voting [along with the] abstentions, as well. At the next meeting, if all senators are present, I don’t see why this bill would not pass. It’s a good bill. It makes us more efficient, we can govern better as a Student Union and we can help the student body at large, and that’s what’s most important here.”