February 20, 2011

Student Assembly Makes Exception for A Cappella Group That Missed Deadline

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Correction appended

The Student Assembly passed Resolution 56 Thursday, requiring the Student Assembly Finance Commission to reimburse The Hangovers, an SAFC-funded a cappella group, after the group failed to submit its reimbursement forms by the SAFC deadline.

The resolution, which gives The Hangovers $5,500 for unpaid debt, also imposed a punitive measure on the group. The Hangovers will not receive its full spring semester allocation from the SAFC.

Arguing their organization deserved the money, members of The Hangovers attributed the controversy to miscommunication and ambiguity about which documents they needed to submit.

The Hangovers accrued a $5,500 debt from a Nov. 13 concert. The group performed with The Sherwoods, an alumni singing organization, according to S.A. meeting proceedings. The Hangovers needed the money from the SAFC to pay The Sherwoods.

The SAFC funding deadline passed on Dec. 6.

According to Toth, Terry Ector, account manager for the SAFC, contacted the a cappella group on Jan. 3 and said the organization’s forms were not submitted.

The problem arose because The Sherwoods do not have a Taxpayer Identification Number, which the SAFC needed to submit a tax form, Toth said.

S.A. Human Ecology Representative Dan “Calvin” Kuhr ’13, who also serves as the business manager for The Hangovers, said the punitive measure would hurt the a cappella group. According to Kuhr, one of the consequences of the S.A.’s actions is that the group’s spring concert, Happy Hour will be twice as expensive to host. The Hangovers were also planning a tour to the United Kingdom to sing with alumni, Kuhr said. However, without the additional funding, the organization will not be able to go on this trip, he said. SAFC representatives did not support the resolution, arguing this would set a precedent of extending funding to groups after the deadline. No group has received such funding before. “It will lead to a whole range of problems. We will face this issue more [in] future semesters,” SAFC co-chair Lauren Rosenblum ’11 said. “Why this one group?” “Basically, the S.A. is telling SAFC, ‘We’re going to waive a process we told you to follow,’” Vincent Andrews ’11, president of the S.A., said.  “$5,500 is an undue burden on a group, even though they screwed up,” Adam Nicoletti ’12, S.A. representative for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said.Rosenblum noted that Toth had been the treasurer for four semesters and said that “he should be familiar with the policy.” Toth said that he has “never had to deal with anything like this before.” “This $5,500 was promised,” Toth said. “What’s the long-term harm to the budget if we get it?”Ari Epstein, the SAFC assistant director of assemblies, said more than $170,000 rolled over from last semester because many groups did not submit forms by Dec. 6. This unclaimed money will be reallocated to all clubs who receive SAFC money on Monday, Epstein said.  However, Andrews said there was no procedure for the disbursement of SAFC funds, and the S.A. has never handled a situation like this before. The only procedure is to turn in documents by the deadline, and there is no appeals process, Andrews said. “I believe in the power of this body to rule on this issue,” Ray Mensah ’11, S.A. representative at-large, said. “I want all funds to go through the SAFC. I don’t think it’s wise for us as an organization to tell a group that they’re stuck with $5,500 debt. The group should be refunded [by the SAFC].”“We are not punishing the SAFC,” S.A. Representative Geoffrey Block ’14, S.A. freshmen representive, said. “It is not the S.A.’s job to give out money. Taking the money from the SAFC makes sense. That’s their purpose. The S.A. should not be shelling out this money.”Ulysses Smith ’13, S.A. representative for the College of Art, Architecture and Planning, disagreed.  “I don’t think the burden should go to the SAFC,” Smith said. “I don’t agree with the S.A. I don’t think the money should be bailout money.”

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article stated that the Student Assembly’s punative measure will result in a doubling of the ticket price for The Hangover’s spring concert. In fact, the cost of the concert for The Hangovers will double, but ticket prices will remain unchanged.

Original Author: Laura Shepard