By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
As frustration boiled into accusatory anger Wednesday night, Student Congress debated for 45 minutes a budget compromise that appears to not affect the student body.
The realization followed a steady stream of interruptions as new members struggled to grasp parliamentary procedure and executive officers defended budget cuts and a lack of notification to angry committee members.
“There just seemed to be a lot of misunderstanding of what can and can’t happen,” executive president Jonathan Wilkerson said. “It seems to happen with every new Congress.”
During the debate, discussion on the budget disintegrated into a heated exchange between executive treasurer David Shinn and both Susanne Drehsel, International Students Association liaison, over the ISA allocation, and LaJours Taylor, Essence of Ebony president, over that group’s allocation.
“A lot of the chairs of the committees don’t know where the cuts have been made,” Drehsel told Congress in opposing an early motion to approve the budget. “They don’t know any of this yet; we don’t have any information on any of this yet.”
Taylor said after the meeting that Shinn had refused to hand over documents dealing with Essence’s allocation, even though the figures were finalized before last Wednesday’s meeting.
Shinn said last week that line-item budgets and the overall budget itself would be available in his office.
But Wednesday, Taylor ripped into Shinn for telling them to wait until the meeting to see their budget figures.
“That number, 387, was the first time I ever saw that number, Taylor said, referring to the $387 granted out of more than $3,000 requested. Her confrontation with Shinn continued for several minutes while a motion stood on the floor.
“I went down to the SA office last week to ask what was approved and what was not,” she began in answering a question posed by a Congress member. “What was told to me by Mr. Shinn was that I had to wait until this meeting. I don’t think you can make a valid decision for the students you are representing.”
Shinn responded, saying he showed Taylor the line-item budget request Essence of Ebony had turned in and from where he had cut.
Taylor denounced that claim after the meeting, telling the Optimist she had no idea what her group’s budget looked like until the Wednesday debate.
“To me, he’s just trying to twist the truth a little bit,” she said. “Most of the time, it was because he was unprepared and wasn’t on top of his job.”
Wilkerson chalked the dispute up to a miscommunication between two well-meaning people.
“I don’t think it’s been clearly explained,” he said.
As debate wound down, Shinn told Congress the committees had not gotten any of their money because funds would be allocated after budget training Friday, not because Congress hadn’t voted on the budget yet.
Wilkerson said he remembered Drehsel explaining that point early in the debate and had thought Congress heard it.
“Since we heard it, we thought other people heard it,” he said. I would have given a point of information, butit was explained by Susanne. I think it was just a lost message.”
The meeting’s minutes record Rep. Elizabeth Alvarez, Administration Building, asking treasurer David Shinn if students could use the money without congressional approval.
Shinn’s response: “They’ll need to go throughb training first.”
“I don’t care what he said at the meeting,” said Alvarez, who is a Hispanos Unidos officer. “He told me last week that we couldn’t get our money unless Congress approves it.”
Congress ended up unanimously passing a series of motions and amendments that appeared to provide nothing more than symbolic approval to give money to Mu Phi Epsilon, Weekend Campaigns, Treadaway Kids and Hispanos Unidos. The vote was 29-0 with no abstentions.
“We didn’t have to do that to get them their money,” said Rep. Casey Kelley, Don H. Morris Center. “They just have to go through training.”
The only new business discussed was a quickly passed resolution encouraging members of Congress to sign an accountability contract in which they would vow to answer students’ questions or address their concerns within one week. The vote was 30-0 with no abstentions.
Shinn then asked for and was quickly granted permission to keep the limit under which the Appropriations Committee can approve funds for students without first getting congressional approval at $1,500. The vote was 29-0 with one abstention.