SGA senate votes to fund Women’s Leadership Conference through finance committee

By Stuart Foster

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)
(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

The Student Government Association senate voted to fund speaker fees for the Women’s Leadership Conference through the SGA’s finance committee funds at a senate meeting Monday.

The vote took place after the finance committee unanimously voted on Oct. 27 against providing the $5,000 required to pay for keynote speaker Angela Lussier.

In a heated debate between the members of the finance committee and the SGA’s women’s caucus, which organizes the conference, there was a large amount of discussion over whether the $5,000 required for the costs of the keynote speaker were an unforeseen cost which could be covered by the finance committee and whether the conference fits the mission statement of the SGA.

“The mission of the SGA includes the development of leadership and professionalism of underrepresented groups,” said SGA President Sïonan Barrett, a senior journalism major. “Women are that group.”

The women’s caucus approached the finance committee after their original source of funding, the Residence Hall Association, were unexpectedly incapable of providing the funds.

Finance committee Chairman Michael Turner, a senior majoring in economics, said that a lack of revenue generation by the SGA for the event, unclear interest of the student body in the event and the finance committee’s interpretation that the money was not an unseen cost made it impossible for the finance committee to approve the funding.

“This request could have come from any organization, and in any case it would have been rejected,” said Turner.

However, Barrett said the $5,000 required to pay for the speaker fees were an unseen cost to the women’s caucus because they were not aware RHA could not provide the funds until the previous week.

After the women’s caucus was denied the funds from the finance committee, they appealed to bring the vote to the entire Senate body.

Turner then filed an injunction through the SGA Judiciary, which scheduled a hearing on November 19 to determine whether or not the appeal of the women’s caucus is valid through the SGA’s bylaws.

Turner said that the injunction is not about the $5,000 spent through the Finance Committee, but was rather enacted to determine whether the SGA is a Registered Student Organization, which can receive funding through the finance committee, or an Established Student Organization, which cannot.

Turner said that the SGA’s bylaws occasionally contradict each other in their classification of the SGA.

“The implications of this case are actually really huge,” said Barrett, who said that the judiciary ruling that the SGA is not an RSO would allow the SGA to bypass current procedures and fund itself without any checks and balances.

Since the judiciary hearing is set on a date after the conference, which will be held on Nov. 15, the $5,000 would be provided to the finance committee’s budget from the SGA’s long term reserves.

Barrett said that the SGA is an RSO because it has a Student Activities Trust Fund account.

Each female member of the finance committee was either absent from the vote in which the committee rejected funding the speaker fees or abstained due to involvement in the women’s caucus. Every female member of the SGA automatically joins the women’s caucus.

The debate over whether to approve the women’s caucus’ appeal was intense and featured arguments from members of the finance committee that the previous years’ women’s conference only had 50 attendees and that the $5,000 represented an eighth of the Finance Committee’s current budget.

Barrett said in response during the debate that the finance committee is not allowed to take their own budget into account when allocating funding.

“They seem to be breaking their own rules,” she said.

After the Senate voted to allocate the funding, Turner said that while the requests of the women’s caucus did not meet the Finance Committee’s standards, the senate has different avenues of approach and made an acceptable decision.

“The Finance Committee made all the right evaluations in this case,” he said.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster