SGA denies Snelgrove Scholarship funding

by Beacon Staff • November 1, 2006

At an Oct. 24 meeting, the Student Government Association (SGA) voted down a motion to donate $150 to the Torie (Victoria) Snelgrove Memorial Scholarship.,Despite spending nearly $200 to provide food for an upcoming promotional event, Student Government Association (SGA) leaders recently voted against donating money to a scholarship memorializing a student killed two years ago.

At an Oct. 24 meeting, the Student Government Association (SGA) voted down a motion to donate $150 to the Torie (Victoria) Snelgrove Memorial Scholarship.

According to SGA minutes from that meeting, a motion to allocate $150 from the SGA operations fund was amended to a proposed $50. After that motion failed, SGA members denied the original $150 motion with a 5-9 split.

At the same meeting, $197.50 from the operations account was allocated for the food budget of the SGA-sponsored EC Town Hall Meeting.

Jamal Barone, president of the SGA, said he believed a main reason this motion was voted down was a lack of information provided for the proposal.

"At prior meetings, our journalism senator [Mark Meagher] asked if we could sell bracelets to support the fund, but he didn't have much in hand for us to know," said Barone, a senior marketing communication major.

Janet Kolodzy, journalism department chair, contacted the SGA prior to the vote to see if the organization was interested in buying memorial bracelets to sell on the two-year anniversary of Snelgrove's death and then donate all profits to the scholarship fund.

"I was told by Mark that the SGA would not be able to fund the bracelets," Kolodzy said. "I think it had something to do with voting time. I saw it as a way for all of the journalism department to do something in her memory. When SGA didn't fund it, the journalism department decided to."

According to Meagher, a senior broadcast journalism major, Kolodzy's proposal evolved into a simple donation rather than a bracelet sale.

According to Barone, the idea still lacked necessary information.

Barone said when an appeal for money is made, a representative provides an outline with information on the money's disbursement.

As SGA president, Barone did not vote on the motion.

Barone, who presented the motion, blamed himself for the lack of information.

"I'll take responsibility as the leader," Barone said. "I should have had more information for them."

Despite his familiarity with the process, Barone did not draw up a proposal for the Snelgrove donation, though he did do so when presenting the food budget at the same meeting.

Mike Blaisdell, a senior film major and visual and media arts senator, said he had no problem with donating money but did not feel he could make an informed decision.

"I'm not against giving money, but I didn't feel comfortable about deciding," said Blaisdell, who declined to reveal his vote. "I wanted to be fiscally responsible and know where the money was going. If it came with a proposal, I don't think I would be against it."

The scholarship was founded to honor Victoria Snelgrove, a former Emerson broadcast journalism student who died after a Boston police officer fired a "less lethal" pepper pellet into a crowd outside of Fenway Park after the Red Sox World Series victory on Oct. 20, 2004.

The scholarship is awarded annually to a full-time undergraduate student majoring in broadcast journalism.

According to Amy Meyers, development associate with Emerson's alumni relations, the scholarship was created in 2004 as an endowed account.

To establish this kind of scholarship, a minimum donation of $25,000 is required, but only interest on the principle is used to fund the scholarship at a 3 percent pay-out rate. Meyers said contributions to establish the endowment came from classmates, friends, strangers and the trust fund established by Snelgrove's family.

After the initial $25,000, any money donated to the endowment will increase the amount of the scholarship per year, with a bigger principle on which interest can be earned, Meyers said.

The SGA also drew attention shortly after Snelgrove's death when it voted against signing a petition that condemned the Boston Police Department and its use of "non lethal" and "less lethal" weapons.

The petition had garnered more than 875 signatures in support, according to the staff editorial of The Beacon on Nov. 18, 2004.

The editorial reported SGA members did not wish to align themselves with the Save Our Civil Liberties group, which gathered signatures on the Internet.

For some SGA members, it is not the cause they are supporting that draws concern, but the recipient of the scholarship.

According to Andy Michaels, a senior TV/video major and executive vice president of SGA, the operations fund holds money from SGA fees paid by all students.

"I don't think it's our place to give money to a scholarship that only benefits journalism students," Michaels said.

The SGA fee is $160, which more than 3,000 undergrads are required to pay each year.

"I donated and got a wristband to support Torie," Michaels said. "I encourage everyone in the student body and everyone in SGA to do the same."