SGA members disagree over dispersal of student funds

by Beacon Staff • November 16, 2005

Tempers flared at a recent Student Government Association (SGA) joint session meeting as board members debated whether to grant funds to two students wishing to produce a film supported by Frames Per Second (FPS), Emerson College's largest student film organization. The appeal came from senior audio major Tina Gradilone and senior TV/video major Konrad Brattke, who asked the board for $900 to help fulfill the needs for their short film project, "Ad Lib."

Discussion ensued as differing viewpoints took center stage, while members discussed how to allocate the $140,000 pool account the SGA has available for student use.

"I have serious reservations about setting the precedent for the funding of individual projects," SGA Treasurer and senior organizational and political communication major Katie Caponera said at the meeting. "This [pool] isn't an endless account that refills itself."

SGA Vice President Samantha King, a senior organizational and political communication major, disagreed.

"They [Gradilone and Brattke] come to us with a proposal they obviously put a lot of time and work into," King said. "There is no reason not to give it to them."

The board voted down Gradilone and Brattke's request six to four, with three abstentions. Later, a compromise was proposed by Visual Media Arts (VMA) Senator Fred Young to give the pair $250.

In an interview with The Beacon, Caponera explained how the allocation and appeals processes work.

Each year, Emerson College undergraduates are required to pay a student activities fee as part of their tuition bill. This charge, which currently stands at $160 per student, goes toward funding for on-campus groups and organizations, she said, adding that Emerson collected around $448,000 for the 2005-06 academic year.

The fees for students attending the Los Angeles and Kasteel Well programs are subtracted from this collected sum and The Beacon receives 8 percent of the total before the money makes its way into the hands of the Financial Advisory Board (FAB), which reviews the budget proposals of the nearly 70 student organizations on campus, Caponera said.

The FAB is composed of a representative from each class, the current SGA treasurer, and the newly elected SGA treasurer. Each spring semester, they review the budget proposals of the nearly 70 student organizations on campus. During this time, they decide how much to give to each group. The budget distributions vary among organizations.

For example, according to the records of 2005-06 allocations, Emerson Independent Video (EIV) and FPS have some of the greatest needs, totaling $30,000 apiece.

Smaller organizations, such as the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and Earth Emerson, received less than $1,000. According to Caponera, if groups feel they have not received the budget they desired, or if their needs exceed their existing budget, they may appeal to the SGA Pool Account for more money at any time throughout the year.

The Pool Account is made up of the money organizations have left over from previous years. Currently, the account contains $140,000, Caponera said.

According to the SGA Treasurer Handbook, it is the board's mission to represent student interests, rights and concerns, and to provide and oversee the funding for student activities and organizations through a fair and representative annual process.

SPJ Treasurer Jackie Noblett, a sophomore print journalism major, said she does not believe her group got enough funding this year.

Last spring, SPJ presented the FAB with a $4,000 budget proposal and received only $750, Noblett said. "We should have gotten more," she said. "$1,500 would have been comfortable. Now, we are pinching pennies."

Noblett added that she knows that SPJ will need to appeal for money from the Pool Account at some point this year. Noblett said she agrees with the SGA board's decision not to fund Gradilone and Brattke's project.

"I think that to fund people's individual projects is unfair," she said.

Maegan DeLury, a sophomore film major, disagreed. DeLury said she believes students not affiliated with groups should have the opportunity to appeal for funding from SGA.

"I think that if a person pitches a reasonable idea to the board, they follow the correct procedure, and it is legit, then it should be allowed," she said.

King also said that she fully supports these projects.

"The larger organizations get budgets," she said. "It's the smaller ones and individuals who need the money in appeals."

Senior Anna Basile, the organizational and political communication senator, who voted against the Gradilone and Brattke appeal, said that she is not entirely against funding individual projects.

Basile said when she is considering an appeal, she looks at how many people will benefit from the funding. In the case of Gradilone and Brattke, she said she felt that it did not reach out to enough of the student body.

Basile said she is concerned that the purpose of SGA is often overlooked.

"We have been trying to escape the misnomer of being a bank for as long as I have been on board," Basile said. "By maintaining the idea that we only facilitate funds, we miss the chance to open up to the campus in other ways."

At Tuesday's joint session meeting, SGA President Kirstin Daniel, a senior theatre education major, told the board that she believes appeals are an important aspect of what the SGA does.

"I don't think that people asking the SGA for money to help sponsor an event means we are a bank," Daniels said. "At the end of the day, it gives us a chance to say 'look what we helped do.'"

Leah Antonellis, a senior dance major and co-president for the Emerson Dance Company, recently appeared before the SGA to appeal for $3,000 to put toward costumes and the opportunity for students to take masters dance classes. The SGA approved this, and allotted her group the funds.

"I think we got the money because we are benefiting people other than just the dance majors," she said.

Musical Theatre Society (MTS) Treasurer and senior theatre studies major Nicole Cardamone was also recently on the receiving end of a successful appeal for her organization.

She said she thinks the SGA appeals process is fair, and that SGA-recognized groups should have greater precedence in receiving money than individuals.

SGA advisor and Associate Dean of Students Sharon Duffy said in an e-mail to The Beacon that she supports the board in its decisions, as long as it adheres to college policy.

She said, "I think SGA has done a good job handling appeals and has made some good, sound and solid decisions that fall in line with SGA's mission and purpose and also in line with college policies."