SGA discusses committee structure for finance and student center

By JACOB TOOK | December 7, 2017

The Student Government Association (SGA) held their final meeting of the semester on Tuesday at Charles Commons. They discussed potential changes to the role of the Finance Committee in reviewing funding and debated whether to create an ad hoc committee to lead SGA’s push for a student center at Hopkins.

Executive Treasurer Mi Tu explained that last year SGA passed a clause allowing the Financial Committee to pass or veto funding under $500 without a vote from the SGA general body. This measure was an effort to streamline the process of approving funding for student groups.

Tu voiced concern that this process was unconstitutional because funding could be approved or vetoed without proper discussion. The proposed update would only allow the Financial Committee to approve such bills if the general body did not meet for two consecutive weeks.

Sophomore Class President Anthony Boutros questioned why these bills had to go through the Financial Committee at all when it would take less time for Tu to simply approve them.

He added that, for internal bills which are already approved by one SGA committee, they should not have to go through the Financial Committee before being approved.

According to Boutros, the Financial Committee rarely vetoes a bill that is approved by the general body.

“The finance committee in my perspective has never, at least in the time that I’ve been in the senate, rejected a bill that’s been passed by another committee,” he said. “I’m assuming most bills are passed in another committee on their way to being funded.”

On the other hand, Senior Class President Kwame Alston said that it doesn’t make sense for funding bills to be approved without going through the Financial Committee because the Committee’s role is to manage SGA’s funding.

He added that they have never vetoed a measure that was passed by the general body because they work with groups for weeks or months to make sure that the bills are ready before they are presented.

“What we’re doing outside of what [Tu] does by herself is meeting with these different student groups, providing them with different sources of funding, then coming back and having these meetups,” Alston said. “The Financial Committee is the one putting in the time to actually meet with student groups and get this done.”

Senior Class Senator Sarah Zappone said that SGA should expand their outreach to work with more student groups to get the funding.

“In previous years, there was so much more engagement in the sponsorships that we normally do,” she said. “This year we have done a lot more political statements and internally-focused things.”

The bill also includes a provision to require bills to be sent to the Financial Committee by Sunday afternoon so that the Committee can review them before the general body meeting each Tuesday.

Alston agreed that the Committee should not be expected to review bills late on Monday night, though he disagreed with Boutros on the possibility of sending the bills straight to Tu for approval. He said that it was simply a matter of SGA holding itself to a higher standard.

“The reason we’re getting them so late is because committees are bringing [the bills] through themselves the entire time to talk about the logistics,” he said. “I don’t think we need to change the constitution when we should just respect what it already says.”

The discussion was tabled. SGA then began debating on the merits of creating an ad hoc committee to spearhead an initiative to construct a student center.

Freshman Class President Sam Schatmeyer argued in favor of a temporary committee which could be integrated into SGA’s committee structure after a preliminary semester.

“It’s a project that’s been introduced a couple of times and it’s gone nowhere every time, so what first occurred to me is that it makes no sense to keep trying to do the same thing over and over and expect different results,” Schatmeyer said.

He said that if the Student Services Committee tried to take on the initiative, it would consume too much of their time.

“If student services wanted to work on anything else, it would be pushed so far down on the agenda just because the student center is going to take the work of five projects,” he said. “It’s that worthwhile of an initiative that we ought to reframe how we go about getting this done.”

Sophomore Class Senator Olivia Cigarroa argued that the project is not ready to have its own committee yet and said that the Student Services Council would be able to handle the work during the early stages.

“I do think an ad hoc committee could be a good idea, but it’s something that I think might be a better idea down the road, like maybe if we revisited it next year,” Cigarroa said. “I don’t think it would eat all of student services’ time. We’ve already made progress with different protests and rallies.”

Boutros said that in addition to Cigarroa, Schatmeyer and Executive Vice President AJ Tsang, the bill would include other interested members of SGA and the entire Student Services Committee.

“The argument made about Student Services splitting its time doesn’t make sense to me because Student Services is already on the this committee,” he said. “Why don’t we just bring those [other] people to the existing committee?”

Junior Class President Ash Panakam agreed with Boutros.

“I don’t think we need to recreate the wheel. If all of Student Services is going to be part of this initiative, I think it should just be an initiative that Student Services does,” she said. “I’m not diametrically opposed to creating an ad hoc committee, I just want to make sure that there’s a tangible function.”

Discussion on this bill was also tabled.

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