The Students’ Association Spring 2010 budget, announced Friday morning, was its most contested in several years.
The meeting to finalize the budget began at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and about 50 students made an appearance – not including members of the SA Congress.
Elroy Johnson IV, sophomore marketing manager from Frisco and president of the Students of African American Brotherhood, said many SAAB members attended the meeting after SA made a decision to cut SAAB’s budget for a Valentine’s dinner for the Virtuous African Heritage Sisterhood.
Johnson said the event is intended to show appreciation for the women of the VAHS and the work they do to raise awareness about sex trafficking in the U.S.
“It shows a service-leadership project that is portrayed in our National SAAB mission statement,” he said in an e-mail. “‘We encourage our participants to embrace leadership by being positive examples for each other through a strong commitment to academic achievement, brotherhood, and community service.'”
The issue raised some heated discussion, and Congress eventually decided to cut the dinner from the budget, following an amendment to decrease the requested total to $52.50 from $140.
Despite the debate, or perhaps because of it, Luke Cochran, senior finance major from Round Rock and SA treasurer, said he thought the meeting went well. He said it made clear to Congress what listening to students’ voices is all about – and how difficult it can be.
“It was a great example of what SA says we’re about and wants to be about,” he said. “Then it actually happened, and people weren’t sure how to handle it.”
For student groups to receive money, they must submit a budget to Cochran and then schedule a meeting with Cochran and Derek Zimmerman, SA’s chief financial officer, to discuss the group’s proposal.
The purpose of the meetings, Cochran said, is to give students the opportunity to explain, in detail, each of the budgeted items or events. This gives SA a better understanding of the amount of money each group truly needs, he said.
Cochran said SAAB did set up a meeting and presented its budget proposal at that time. However, the decision to cut the dinner for VAHS was not Congress’, not his, and it wasn’t made until Thursday.
After meeting with each group, Cochran and Zimmerman develop guidelines for allocating funds.
“We define a set of principles we follow for every group,” Cochran said. The SA Congress is supposed to follow these principles when voting on the final budget, he said.
After creating a budget proposal, Cochran and Zimmerman present it to Congress for a vote. Cochran said neither the treasurer nor the CFO have a vote at that time.
“Congress has the authority to change as much or as little as they want,” he said. “If you say they need $1,000 and Congress says they only need $200 and they vote, then that’s what they get.”
Unfortunately, this often means student groups receive much less than they requested, as in the case of SAAB.
Cochran said Congress’ justification for cutting the event was based on the guideline that student events include as many students as possible, which the Valentine’s dinner did not do.
However, Johnson said SAAB thought the Congress might have misunderstood the purpose of the dinner.
“We have several questions about the allocation process of the Students’ Association, and we will be following up with necessary channels to address our concerns,” Johnson said.