At the Dec. 2 SGA senate meeting, senators approved several bills, including an increase in funding for SGA monetary recognition checks, a redistribution from the Carryforward fund into club funding for Spring 2022 and funding for two events. They also approved two new senators.
Student Body President Emily Gregory vetoed the monetary recognition bill on Dec. 6 following discussion with senators.
‘Recognition Adjustments’ bill
A bill titled “Recognition Adjustments” was presented that would increase the stipend amounts for each member of SGA by 115%. For senators, the proposed amount would be $960 per semester, up from the current $420. The vote on the bill resulted in a tie, which was broken by Speaker of the Senate Nicholas St. John, who also authored the bill.
Multiple senators spoke against St. John’s deciding vote on the bill.
The recognition checks are received by SGA members following each semester as appreciation for their work for the university. The new bill would have put an additional $25,752.00 from the Carryforward fund into the SGA budget for recognition checks.
Gregory said she vetoed the bill after conversations with other SGA members following the vote, because she “reached the conclusion that the majority were not in favor of this bill.”
“Although I believe it is important to make SGA financially accessible, I think it should be done at a more gradual increase that is parallel to the university’s increase of minimum wage,” she said.
The bill, penned by St. John, stated that the current recognition check “does not sufficiently acknowledge the time and effort dedicated by members in each position.” St. John also argued that being paid more would enable students with financial limitations to be part of SGA.
At the meeting, discussion became heated as dissenting opinions were shared. Three senators who spoke against the bill were Senator at Large Joel Sorensen, Senator at Large Aidan Meadows and Senator of Public Affairs Dylan Matchette.
Sorensen objected to the bill in discussion, calling it “borderline corruption” to take compensation for SGA members from student fees in the Carryforward fund. He drew attention to the larger issue of how much money is in the fund in the first place.
“The fact that we’re sitting around here wondering what to do with a bunch of money, so we may just give it to ourselves, tells me that we are not handling the students’ money well,” he said.
Meadows explained that this bill would be a “double increase” of what each member of SGA already receives per semester.
He called the bill “tone deaf,” and said, “It feels very much like we are patting ourselves on the back without doing any of the work first.”
“This is our decision, and the only people that it benefits are us,” Matchette added. “I just think it’s pretty obvious that there’s a conflict of interest here.”
St. John responded saying that senators who objected to the stipend increase could decline the money personally. He also called several senators “really privileged” to be able to work for SGA without financial concerns.
Election Commissioner Maria Bynes said, “I feel it’s a little shameful for you [St. John] to say that your fellow senators are privileged because they get to be on student government and that they don’t have to worry about money.”
St. John called this response “a complete mischaracterization of what [he] said.”
SGA advisor Brad Bayer took the stand to explain that the university views recognition as a “monetary reward for service,” and that SGA is specifically not recognized as an on-campus job.
During the vote following discussion, six senators voted in favor of the bill and six voted against the bill with one abstainer and two recuses. St. John passed the bill with a tie-breaking vote.
Sorensen later called the bill “virtually a highway robbery” and expressed a desire to “take a look at massive budget reform and start giving money back to the students” instead of allowing it to accumulate in the Carryforward account.
Gregory vetoed the bill, so the proposed stipend increase will not go into effect.
A bill written by Student Director of Finance Thanh Thanh Tran proposing to allocate $55,000 from the Carryforward fund to a fund that clubs and organizations can request funding from was approved.
During discussion, Meadows said, “This is incredibly important. We have no money, and most club events happen in the spring.”
Two additional bills were passed, one that allocated $300 to the Pause for Paws event held at the library for students to pet dogs during finals week, and one that set aside a total of $7,332.41 for the Decades Dance next semester.
Freshman Mauricio Carrera was approved unanimously as the new senator of innovation. Carrera is part of the Chancellor’s Leadership Program and the honors program and discussed his past work with a developing artificial intelligence company as innovative experience. Gregory gave him her full recommendation, saying, “He is incredibly well spoken and demonstrated a genuine care for students.”
Chloe Rosencrantz was approved unanimously as the new senator of the arts. She is an art history major who has worked with different components of VAPA and expressed her desire to gain funding for the arts as a senator. Having attended prior SGA meetings, she discussed how seeing the work of the senate has encouraged her to get involved with the thought put into campus involvement.