In a special meeting yesterday, Student Assembly (S.A.) members voted to approve an emergency loan to the Student Assembly Finance Commission (SAFC) for $45,000 from the Student Helping Students (SHS) fund.
The request from the SAFC was the result of an unexpected rise in funding requests from student groups for this semester.
The group received budgets from 42 new student groups, making the total for the year 81 groups. As a result of the increase, the SAFC was only able to allocate enough money for each group’s first priority, with a maximum allocation of $750.
Last semester, the average allocation for each group was $4,000. With the additional money received from the Students Helping Students fund, SAFC members believe that they will now be able to finance the second priorities of each group’s budget.
However, the decision to approve the loan was met with opposition from some assembly members.
The $45,000 from the fund, which was established to aid students who experienced financial hardship during the school year, had initially been earmarked for students affected by Sept. 11. While most of that money has not been utilized by the student population, some members feel that loaning the money to the SAFC would not solve long-term problems and would set a negative precedent for future financial crises.
“This is just a ‘band-aid’ solution and I don’t really think that it will solve anything,” said Darren Rumack ’04, new student-transfer representative. Michael Wacht ’02, architecture arts and planning representative and chairman of the SHS fund said, “I think that it is fiscally irresponsible. This obscures the purpose of the [SHS].”
Most other members felt differently.
“Any member who votes against this resolution should be ashamed … because they are doing a great disservice to student groups,” said S.A. Executive Vice President Mark Greenbaum ’02.
Josh Bronstein ’05, new student representative agreed. “I do think that it is our duty to help the SAFC, even though I initially thought this was only a ‘band-aid’ solution.”
The S.A. acknowledged this semester’s situation as a special emergency and discussed how to ensure that the SAFC would not have similar problems in the future.
“We must recognize that we have made mistakes and we must make improvements upon them,” said Josh Roth ’03, arts and sciences representative.
Jonathan Ludwig, the engineering representative added, “The most important part of this process is to make sure that this never happens again.” Ludwig replaced Thomas Leung after Leung resigned last week due to personal reasons.
The S.A. plans to create a task force to address the need for reforms to the funding system and to prevent future problems.
Some solutions include raising the student activity fund next semester to support the newly created student groups and decreasing the average amount new groups are initially allocated to discourage them from forming.
As a result of tightening budgets in the SAFC and the S.A., the SHS fund, which is controlled by the assembly but administered by the Financial Aid Office, was the only possibility acknowledged by members to provide an emergency loan.
“Above all, I think these groups need funding,” said Lindsay Patross ’02, undesignated representative, “but I’m not fully in support of this resolution because we haven’t discussed other options.”
Another point of contention between the members involved an amendment to force the SAFC to repay the loan in one semester instead of over two semesters as initially proposed. Many members believed that forcing the commission to make one payment instead of two would only perpetuate the problem, while others thought that the best course would be to follow the SAFC’s recommendations.
“I really think we should defer to the committees who are at work here. We know we can transfer the SHS money without being hurt, so why not act in the best interest of both parties,” said S.A. President Uzo Asonye ’02.
In an 11-9 vote, the amendment to require one payment in the fall instead of one each semester did not pass.
Following the meeting, SAFC co-chairs Jennifer Hoos ’04 and Robert Way ’04 expressed their approval of the S.A.’s decision for the loan. “We are very excited about the decision. These groups really needed this money,” Hoos said.
Archived article by Mackenzie Damon