Editor-in-Chief: Roxanne Hepburn
On Thursday, November 10th at 7PM, Umass Dartmouth’s Student Government Association held the first-ever Leadership Forum, which is the new follow-up event to Shake the Ship.
The main topic up for discussion during this event was the disastrous distribution of budgets to clubs for the 2022-2023 year and the use of SPFs to counteract empty club bank accounts.
About a week prior to the Forum, all club presidents (including me) received this email from the SGA president:
“My name is Efe Oboh-Idahosa, and I am the President of the Student Government Association (SGA), as well as your student body president. As some of you probably know our former treasurer Prince X Lopes has stepped down from his position, and as of Monday October 31st, the Student Government Association (SGA) elected a new treasurer, Jendayi Williams. There have been a series of concerns that have been going around about the budget allocations and SFPs. We have heard these concerns and would like to address these issues. We realized that there were some miscommunications with the former treasurer and how the budgets and SFPs were handled. So, the new treasurer and I have decided to make some changes and ratify these situations. To that end, the SGA would like to invite you all to our new event called Leadership Forum on November 10th, 6pm-8pm in the Library Living Room. On Leadership forum day, we will be informing you about so many new processes that we will be following for the reminder of the year. During the leadership forum we will be presenting a lot of new updates and addressing your concerns about budgets. Please we advise that all presidents and treasurers should be present at this event, and if you have specific questions that you want us to address, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email Jendayi Williams at email@example.com. Thank you.”
The meeting started by addressing the clear lack of communication that occurred between SGA officers as well as the SGA with student organizations.
The former treasurer, that has now stepped down due to personal issues, was brought in to discuss and address his past mistakes and miscommunications made during his term in relation to these budget distribution issues. While admitting fault for some transgressions, he also passed blame onto the clubs themselves for a lack of being proactive about their budgets.
In an effort to combat future budget issues, the SGA announced a new plan to move forward with budget allocation.
Student organizations will submit budget packets from the last 3 years as well as a current budget plan, to analyze what is the proper budget estimate for each club.
It was also clarified that the money allotted for each itemized reason on budget packets, MUST go to that designated use. It cannot be used for any other reason.
Moving forward, SPFs will only be used to request additional fund grants as needed.
The SGA emphasized that each of the SPFs are gifts, and when asking for a grant, it takes from the SGA monetary fund for the entire year. The more people that pull from that fund for additional club grants, the less money there will be for the SGA to function.
They made it clear that budgeting per event using SPFs would give student organizations more money than they would normally get for the entire year. Instead, clubs must create their budget packets to account for those costs for the whole year.
In addition to these policy changes, the SGA will be revising finance bylaws and policies which should be finalized for next semester, Spring 2023.
Students in the audience were then allowed to ask questions.
Many club representatives stood up and asked relevant questions in relation to new student organizations.
The SGA made it clear that new clubs will be allotted the base $200 and clubs may use SPFs to request more funds when needed. The SGA will use future budget packets as well as SPF requests to work on creating a budget after the initial start-up year.
One student asked if raising the student activity fee could increase the base $200 allotment.
The SGA president revealed that she had been asked if she wanted to do that very thing.
She is considering raising the fee from the current $87.50 to an additional $5-$10 at $92.50-$97.50 which would allow for additional funds to be added to the base $200 for new student organizations. She said she should be releasing a survey on this topic in the near future.
Another student raised the issue of club sport team limits.
The club cheer team is reaching unsafe numbers for a team with no coach. But as an SGA-funded club, they cannot turn anyone away. With the current policies, if 100 people wanted to join the team and stand on the sidelines of games, they would have to let it happen, regardless of safety standards.
The SGA provided no real solution to this problem, other than making it clear that with current policies in place, if the cheer team were to turn anyone away, they would lose their funding.
In the end, the SGA recommended that any club facing funding issues can work on their fundraising practices.
Fundraising bank accounts are limitless and how clubs can use that money has no regulations. So if clubs need more money for events that they do not have allotted money for, they can fundraise it themselves.
The audience was then reminded that SGA senators are available for contact about any issues about policies that need to be refined or created.
In my opinion, the SGA officers are stretched way too thin, and that is why these budget issues slipped through the cracks.
The SGA president herself admitted during the meeting that she, “has at least 6-7 meetings a day on top of taking 7 classes” along with being the student body president. With so many responsibilities, it is easy to see why so much is being overlooked.
The distribution of individual responsibilities needs to be reevaluated and spread out, as the SGA officers should be students first, and then politicians, not the other way around.
Here is a complete video of the Leadership Forum.