Although the budgetng process is over for Student Senate, financial matters are still a predominant topic of discussion at Senate meetings.
On Nov. 10, Building Bridges came to Senate to request funds for its annual conference. This year’s conference, planned for Saturday, Mar. 14, 2009, will address the inequities in education. The organization will bring Erin Gruwell to Gustavus, the woman portrayed by Hilary Swank in the film Freedom Writers.
With a quasi-unanimous vote, Senate allocated $10,450.00 to Building Bridges—the full amount requested—to host this year’s conference.
“Student Senate can find other ways to conserve money, but Building Bridges is definitely in need of any funding that we have,” said Chad Allen, a junior political science major and senator.
“The conference itself is a tremendous event, so Student Senate should help with that. We are definitely supporting a wonderful cause. I do not regret giving them [that much] money,” said Luke Garrison, Student Senate co-president and a senior communication studies major.
“I do think it is a wise expenditure, mostly because Building Bridges is a campus-wide activity that so many on campus benefit from,” said Philip Helt, a sophomore communication studies major and senator.
Accounting for the Building Bridges allocation, Student Senate’s contingency fund sits at $11,196.29. According to Senate’s bylaws, $10,000 must be carried over to spring semester. “[The contingency fund] is clearly under what we have always had,” said Garrison.
But there are potential remedies for Senate’s short-on-cash situation. A referendum to raise the student government fee is expected to be presented in the spring. Senate has more groups asking for more money and a budget that has remained static.
“I think students will realize that it is probably time to raise the fee to meet the needs of all the student organizations. The only way the activities or these events will occur is if we have the money to do it,” Helt said.
President Ohle has mentioned the possibility of providing Senate with additional funds. The money would likely be in the form of a grant and a loan and Senate would be required to pay back a portion of the money. “It is a realistic possibility, but it is not a reality at this point,” Garrison said.
If offered, Senate is still debating whether or not to accept the funding. “Senate is taking financial responsibility to make sure we will have money to meet the students’ needs,” Helt said.
However, as Student Senate moves forward with these financial issues, they will be under new financial leadership.
Ashley Melville, vice president of finance and junior management major, is expected to formally resign at the full-Senate meeting on Monday, Nov. 24. “I have told the Cabinet and the Finance Committee [that] I am resigning because this is the best possible time to do so, and I would like to apply my leadership skills elsewhere. I feel like this is the best decision for all involved,” Melville said. A new Vice President of Finance has yet to be appointed.
After intense conversation, Student Senate has voted to consider the new constitution (which will replace the Senate’s current constitution). The proposed constitution, bylaws and transitional document will likely be voted on at the next full-Senate meeting on Nov. 24, and pending ratification, will take effect at the full-Senate meeting on Dec. 8, 2008. The former cabinet will be dissolved, and a new cabinet will be put into place at that time. Senators will continue to serve the term they were elected for, and vacancies will be filled if the position applies to the new constitution.
Senate is excited about the changes that the new constitution will bring. “Above all, it will make Senate a more effective, efficient [governing body],” said Allen.
“One of the main issues has been how we ratify the [proposed] constitution,” said Helt. Some senators have argued that the document should be voted on by the entire student body, as it will be the governing document of the student body. Other senators do not agree. “I think senators were elected as representatives of their constituents, and they vote for them. We allow for others to voice their opinions, but [voting] is a senator’s job,” Garrison said.
In the constitutional discussions, presidential and cabinet stipends have re-emerged as a controversial issue. After much discussion, stipends were added to the current constitution last fall. Some believe that co-presidents and other cabinet members should be paid, as they serve a vital function for the college.
Past and current presidents have had to eliminate their work study position or cut back dramatically on hours.
Others hold that the experience is a reward in itself, and thus, stipends are not necessary, especially when finances are tight. The issue of stipends is “definitely not a new issue. It has been discussed for years. What may be at stake is this constitution will be here for years to come. Stipends are beneficial for Senate in the future … and therefore should be an option,” said Allen.
Public Denouncement of Hate Acts
At the last full-Senate meeting, Student Senate responded to the hate acts involving the vandalism of several vehicles by publishing a resolution. The document titled “Denouncement of Hateful Acts,” stated that Senate does not support such actions. Senate also expressed empathy to the victims and lauded those individuals and organizations that are taking a stand against these crimes.
“It was written with the intent of Senate sending a united response as Gustavus’ student representatives,” said Allen, who also serves as the chair of Senate’s Diversity Committee.
Overall, Allen is “very impressed” with the response to the crimes. In the past, “there have been [incidents] where there hasn’t been a very large response. We have taken a strong stance. There has been a lot of student response from organizations and individuals,” said Allen.
“I received a couple of varying comments directly from students. A sophomore student was very pleased to see that Senate took a strong stance and tried to be bold about it in a timely manner.
There was another student who told me that she felt it was a worthless document because we weren’t doing anything—that saying something doesn’t help at all. But our denouncement is only the first step,” said Senior Political Science Major and Director of Communications Nick Stramp.
Student Senate will be hosting an open community conversation with President Ohle on Sunday, Nov. 23, at 7:00 p.m. in Alumni Hall.
Following in Luther’s Steps— The Ninety-five Theses
Late on Oct. 30, 2008, Student Senate posted its own Ninety-five Theses on President Ohle’s front door. The act was symbolic of Martin Luther nailing his “Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” to the church door in Germany, marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
The Senate’s Ninety-five Theses were not meant as a list of demands; it was “more of a symbolic act,” said Garrison.
Over the past two years, Student Senate has worked to compile a list of requests from the student body to be considered if financial resources were unlimited. The Ninety-five Theses are “timely with the launch of Commission [Gustavus] 150,” said Stramp.
The list encompasses a wide variety of issues on campus. Many improvements to residence halls were mentioned. Student Senate also asked that the President “address and review issues with the Hate Crime Policy” and “raise pay for student workers.”
While Senate did not ask for a formal response from President Ohle, he has informed Senate that he will be submitting the Ninety-five Theses to Commission Gustavus 150 taskforces and will report back to Senate by the end of the academic year.