By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
The largest operating budget ever presented to Student Congress went unapproved Wednesday as the governing body lost quorum before discussion could begin.
Totaling $111,500 in student fees and rollover from last semester, the Students’ Association spring 2004 budget-as presented by the executive officers-includes funding for 23 student groups, Internet voting and electronic scoring in the Campus Center bowling alley.
However, that budget is in limbo until next week, executive president Jonathan Wilkerson said after only 22 of Congress’ 46 members returned from a five-minute recess. Congress needs 23 attendees to conduct business.
“It was a little frustrating,” said executive president Jonathan Wilkerson. “We did our best to keep the presentation succint … [but] even with your quorum, it defeats the purpose when you only have half of the Congress there.”
Also put on hold was the “Faith Plan,” presented last week as a way to show moral and financial support for the university’s faculty, staff and administration in the wake of recent budget decisions.
Both the Faith Plan and the budget will be brought in Wednesday’s meeting, Wilkerson said.
Quorum was lost through a steady erosion of members as the meeting approached two hours long. Three separate presentations-a missions camp advertisement, the semester’s budget and an executive committee report-together with prayer requests and miscellaneous announcements took up most of the time.
After the brief recess, the 22 remaining members debated whether to discuss without voting or to adjourn.
“If we adjourn right now, what will happen to the budget?” Rep. Taylor Hemness, Don H. Morris Center, asked Wilkerson.
“It’ll be on hold,” Wilkerson replied.
“We can give you our assurance,” he continued. “We’ll tell student groups [granted money in the budget] we’re waiting approval. Next week we’ll present it as a bill. We’ll just work with the groups and explain to them nothing’s final here.”
Anger rose as members began to call for roll to be taken so as to determine who had left early. Executive secretary Suzie MacKenzie questioned what she should tell students waiting to hear how much money they could receive.
“I’ve told people it was going to be ready by Friday,” she said, “then I told them it’ll be ready this week. Now I have to tell them to wait a week.”
Although still unapproved, the presented budget allocates $30,000 for electronic scoring in the bowling alley and $4,295 for an Internet voting program as part of a new section called “Improvements.”
“Campus improvements have been left untouched” by previous SA administrations, Wilkerson said, adding that the student body would better appreciate “stuff that has a tangible effect.”
If approved by Congress, other large allocations would include $2,060 for an International Justice Mission conference in Washington, D.C., $10,000 to the Campus Activities Board for the various entertainment committees formerly part of SA, $4,934.20 for Weekend Campaigns and more than $2,000 each for Wildcat Kids, the National Broadcasting Society, the university chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association and the Aggie Club.
In all, nearly $40,000 could be granted to student groups, with an additional $5,500 reserved in the Student Request Fund.
SA collected about $100,000 from the $25 fee every undergraduate student pays and had a rollover of about $10,000, Wilkerson said.
The failure of Congress to approve, reject or change the budget angered many members who stayed until adjournment.
“People say they’re going to do something [for students],” said Rep. Jeremy Gudgel, McKinzie Hall. “Yeah, they give their time, but they don’t vote on it. … They’re not representing the students.”
Rep. Tommy Butler, Biblical Studies Building, agreed, criticizing attempts to use church as a reason for leaving SA meetings early.
“You give your word that you’re going to represent the students, then you leave,” he said. “That’s not keeping a promise. … I’m talking about the biblical command to let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes and your ‘no’ be ‘no.'”