By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Citing a lack of respect from the university administration, the Students’ Association’s executive officers made their pitch Wednesday to overhaul SA’s mode of governing.
According to the plan outlined in a 50-minute presentation to Congress, the SA of the future would feature no committees in their current form, would remove activity-planning as a part of class officers’ job description and would create an SA endowment fund.
The plan was met with skepticism at best from parts of Congress, especially class officers, in a question-and-answer session that lasted about 90 minutes before collapsing into parliamentary and constitutional chaos.
The plan breaks down this way.
* Calling SA a “farce” when it comes to dealing with the administration, executive president Jeremy Smith said the plan would allow for every student organization-from the football team to Hispanos Unidos-to send a delegate to sit in SA meetings.
The delegates would give announcements, which would be taped and run on SATV and also would be printed in SA’s weekly newsletter. The plan also calls for a 15 minute question-and-answer session with a different administrator each week as further incentive for groups to send a delegate.
Smith admitted he did not know who then would be able to attend the retreat but that the delegates, like commitee chairs, would not have a vote in Congress.
* The most complicated part of the officers’ proposal involves the removal of the officers from the committee selection process.
Under the proposal, committee heads would choose their own successors and would no longer be answerable to vice president Jeremy Gordon or Smith. Money would still be granted through the SA budget, but the committee, renamed a “student service group,” would work with an administrative adviser instead.
So as to assure the students that the administration would not control the student groups, each adviser would sign an agreement allowing the group to pull out at any time, Smith said.
This angle of the proposal also puts SA committees on the same level as other student groups. Each would be allowed to submit a budget at the beginning of the year and receive money without making requests before Congress.
* The final aspect of the plan is advocacy, which Smith has emphasized all year.
The proposal calls for advocacy to be the sole responsibility of elected officers. Members who wished to plan activities could join the campus activities student service group, Smith said.
* Built into the proposal is an SA endowment fund that treasurer Jonathan Wilkerson predicted could hold upwards of $10 million by 2030 if Congress either raised the student activity fee by $10 or charged incoming freshmen $25 each, and then added budget rollover each year.
The plan confused many in Congress, which Smith limited to merely asking clarifying questions before he would allow the proposal to be discussed and debated.
However, class officers and several representatives and committee members expressed skepticism about the plan.
“It seems you’ve already taken a lot of power from the executive officers,” said Dustin Tallent, freshman class vice president, referring to the removal of the officers from the committee process. “Government has a pyramid shape to it, and you are chopping the top half off of it.”
Tensions flared when junior class senator Shep Strong, backed by fellow senator Erin Baldwin and several others, pointedly questioned Smith’s assertion that the university doresn’t respect SA.
“Who are you talking to that says that?” Strong asked.
Smith pointed to the inevitability of block tuition and recent reallocation moves as examples of the university acting with disregard for student opinion.
Toward the end of the meeting, Smith became increasingly defensive as the meeting spiraled out of control. Congress members eager to adjourn after nearly three hours tried to rush through five appropriations grants before Baldwin interrupted to ask Wilkerson exactly on what Congress was about to spend the students’ money.
This came after Smith told Congress that appropriations could give the groups the money in anticipation of approval next week.
Smith admitted that the Constitution required approval before the money was distributed, but he continued with the offer anyway.
Congress will discuss the officers’ proposal next week.