SGA erupts over money

by Beacon Staff • February 13, 2008

Off-Campus Commissioner Chance Dorland and Visual and Media Arts Senator John Tyson stepped down after $33,690.,Two Student Government Association members resigned Tuesday over what they said was an unreasonable amount of money alloted to the Hand Me Down Night committee, according to SGA leaders.

Off-Campus Commissioner Chance Dorland and Visual and Media Arts Senator John Tyson stepped down after $33,690.75 was approved for the annual event, which is held to recognize student leaders and to showcase the transference of power in student organizations. Tyson was the only voting member to resign.

The resignations came after a heated meeting on Tuesday in which three officers, Dorland, Tyson and Public Relations Liaison Emily Greenwell walked out as SGA President Scott Fisher announced the motion to give the committee the requested amount had passed.

The final vote was 14-2 in favor of allocating $33,690.75--$5,880.75 more than last year-with Class of 2010 Senator Monica Casanova and Tyson opposing.

Debate over the event's cost began at the Feb. 5 SGA meeting when the Hand Me Down Night committee's appeal for funding was initially submitted. An amendment was proposed to bring the cost down to $24,790, but was rejected by a vote.

Casanova said she made a second attempt to amend the allocation down to $22,490.75, but was also voted down.

"If this appeal was denied, we wouldn't have a Hand Me Down Night this year," Casanova said. The sophomore organizational and political communication major said she was hesitant to deny a 40-year-old Emerson tradition, but was uncomfortable with the amount.

In an e-mailed letter of resignation sent to over 30 people of various levels of involvement on campus, Tyson lashed out at a governing body he said was nothing more than a bank for well-established organizations.

"I cannot in good conscience remain part of an organization that spends extravagant amounts of money on parties for . ourselves and our friends," Tyson wrote.

The event includes a formal sit-down dinner, awards ceremony and a dance reception with a disc jockey.

"We have all these members who are so opinionated about what Hand Me Down Night should be, but when it came time to apply to the committee to make a difference, no one applied," said senior theatre studies major Samantha Baime, SGA executive vice president and former Beacon photo editor.

Cassie Kling, the Hand Me Down Night committee's public relations and marketing coordinator, said in an e-mail statement to The Beacon that extra emphasis will be placed this year on encouraging student involvement and attendance at the event.

"We are continuing to consider the recommendations and feedback of SGA to solidify the structure of Hand Me Down Night," the statement said.

SGA president Scott Fisher said in an interview he would support a leaner event budget, but was unable to influence how the board voted.

"The rise in cost is something we've seen in almost every single appeal this year," said Fisher, who does not have a vote. "It was more about the event being changed."

Among the recipients of Tyson's letter was Dean of Students Ronald Ludman, Fisher and a host of other student leaders and administrators.

"I could have just sent this [resignation] to Scott [Fisher], but I wanted all of you to know how strongly I feel about this," he wrote.

In his letter, Tyson referred to SGA as a "glorified rubber stamp" that "has not seen a single appeal voted down.yet makes it incredibly difficult for new organizations to be recognized."

SGA advisor Sharon Duffy confirmed that no appeals have been turned down since last September. Any student organization on campus can make an appeal for funds from SGA once per semester.

Grace Konrad, a junior organizational and political communication major and chair of the commitee formed by SGA to plan Hand Me Down Night, continually reminded her fellow members during debate this week that the full amount requested was absolutely necessary and that any money not used would be given back to the SGA fund.

Konrad, who is also the class of 2009 president, was not required to abstain from the vote, according to Chief Justice of SGA Jeff Foster.

Dorland said SGA members talked last semester about controlling the escalating cost of the annual event, but when the appeal was submitted last week his and others' prior recommendations were ignored. He said the projected cost for the single night was higher than they expected.

"There was never a doubt about us wanting to lower the cost, especially of the meal," Dorland said in a telephone interview. According to a copy of the approved appeal, the meal alone cost $12,600.

Last April, SGA surveyed 101 students about Hand Me Down Night before initial funding was allocated for the event. A significant portion of responses from each graduating class expressed either negative feelings toward the event or some degree of ignorance, according to the poll's results.

Dorland said he contemplated resigning after the Feb. 5 meeting, citing SGA's tendency to waste a lot of time while making little progress.

"I'm not saying it's anyone's fault," he said. "That's just the SGA process."