By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Upset by what they perceived to be constitutional violations, several members of Congress raised pointed questions at the presentation of the Students’ Association’s fall semester budget.
The $85,000 budget awarded scholarships to administrative officers without congressional approval and granted $10,000 to the Campus Activities Board without a line-item budget. Both items were questioned on constitutional grounds.
“It definitely was a mistake on the part of the executive officers,” said Rep. Elizabeth Alvarez, Administration Building, of the inclusion of scholarships for the chief development communications officers. “We were all pretty much a little irritated about that.”
Even if Congress decides to reject the budget, the money for the scholarships already has been spent, Wilkerson told Congress in Wednesday’s meeting.
The amendment to Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution, which was passed by Congress March 8 and later ratified by the student body, merely creates an administrative office that includes the CCO, CDO and a chief financial officer. No job descriptions or terms of payment exist.
Wilkerson defended the scholarships, saying he was following precedent established last year with then-CFO David Shinn. Shinn, now the executive treasurer, was paid through scholarships listed in budgets passed by Congress in both semesters.
“I didn’t know it was going to be an issue,” Wilkerson said after the meeting. “I don’t think Congress would individually take out the administrative officer scholarships and leave the executive officers alone, since we all work together as a team.”
Members of Congress also questioned money given to the Campus Activities Board to help cover its expenses in taking charge of such entertainment-related committees as the Freshman Action Council and the Campus Entertainment Committee formerly under SA’s jurisdiction.
Wilkerson and Shinn touted the change as a way to save money-those committees cost SA $30,000 last semester, Shinn said.
But Rep. Erin Baldwin, Administration Building, and others questioned the wisdom of giving away $10,000 without demanding a detailed, line-by-line budget, which is required of all student groups requesting SA money.
“Shouldn’t everyone be held to the same standard?” Baldwin asked during a question-and-answer session after Shinn presented the budget. “If they all had to submit a line-item budget, why shouldn’t people who are doing entertainment submit a line-item budget as well? I’m just asking us to be fiscally responsible.”
Wilkerson said he would request a line-item budget from CAB director Amanda Spell if Congress so wished.
“We can request it if Congress members want to see it,” he said, adding that the details of the agreement had been worked out over the summer to where he was comfortable with the $10,000 allocation.
The removal of all activity-oriented groups out from under the SA umbrella without congressional approval could contradict Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power to “initiate, regulate and coordinate all Students’ Association activities.”
But the ultimate removal of financial support does not mean SA will not support entertainment-related committees, Wilkerson said.
“The financing is different,” he said, “but I don’t think finances are everything.”
The turn of the meeting toward constitutional battles seemed to surprise some members, many of whom are serving on Congress for the first time. Wilkerson said he believed the meeting was educational for many members.
“I think it was informative,” he said. “Some of the questions at the end will help people understand.”