This summer the undergraduate Student Senate took a step to enhance accountability for how your Student Activity Fee dollars are spent. The Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC) is the committee within Student Senate that allocates the Student Activity Fee (SAF)-roughly 1.2 million dollars of student programming money. The committee is composed of senators, the OSIL Coordinator, the SAF Financial Consultant, and Business Managers (BMs), who represent the organizations which receive an annual budget (Student Activity Fee Organizations-SAFOs). All committee members’ work and efforts are certainly appreciated, and I personally value many of the wonderful organizations and their services funded by our SAF.
Ryan Grogan, student body vice president, came to an important realization about the process. In the past, Business Managers – who represent the organizations with annual funding – made up nearly sixty-percent of voting SAFC membership. Thus, decisions on how to spend student funds were being made by a body consisting primarily of students who were not elected by the undergraduate student body as a whole, appointed by the undergraduate student senate, or even part of a governance organization. This was certainly an oversight. It is vital that undergraduate students have the democratic means to select and unselect those who are representing them and making decisions on their behalf about their Student Activity Fee monies.
While I am honored and humbled to serve as your Student Trustee this year, last year I was on SAFC and I was proud to work with Ryan to begin reforms on this issue. Business Managers and their organizations were in no way targeted by these changes. The SAF process was flawed, not our dedicated Business Managers who sacrifice so much for all of us. We have always valued and continue to value the perspectives and work of Business Managers and their respective organizations. The necessary democratic changes made to SAFC reflect this commitment. BMs are still members of SAFC; they may discuss all issues, make motions, and do everything they could before with one exception – they no longer have a vote. Both the OSIL Coordinator and the SAF Financial Consultant are no longer voting members either. Now, a total of nine senators and the Student Body President are able to vote on the allocation of undergraduate Student Activity Fee.
The undergraduate Student Senate exists as a governance organization for the undergraduate Student Body, with a constitutionally mandated responsibility, granted by the President of the University and the “consent of the governed”, to “develop, implement, and monitor the budget and use of the Student Activity Fee.” The good government reforms taken by the Senate are democratic in nature. They directly benefit student voice – ensuring the students making decisions on your behalf about your money are elected by you and that, through democratic processes, are accountable to you.
Student Senate, as the body ultimately responsible for the Student Activity Fee and the Student Activity Fee Committee, took the lead over the summer to make these changes. The argument was made by the author and supporters of the bill that these changes were time sensitive and must be seen during summer quorum. Senate agreed and felt it necessary to adopt and implement these changes at that time because to do otherwise would have started off the 2015-2016 year with an undemocratic fee allocation process.
As Trustee I concern myself with matters of fairness. While I would not typically get involved in writing an editorial like this one, I feel strongly about the democratic and accountability changes Senate has been hard at work making. I fully support these reforms and hope you will do so as well.