SGA faces student critics at joint session

by Beacon Staff • February 27, 2008

The students said these problems led to a bloated event budget and the Feb.,Criticism of the Student Government Association over the cost of Hand Me Down Night broadened at Tuesday's weekly joint session meeting, where a handful of students spoke out against what they said were systemic failures within the organization.

The students said these problems led to a bloated event budget and the Feb. 12 resignation of two SGA members.

"We are here to keep SGA from falling into the traps of our federal government," said Dan Weiman, a senior organizational and political communication major, who was joined in protest by former SGA member John Tyson and Aaron Bacon, a Beacon contributer.

The three organized the student initiative after Tyson established a Facebook group calling for a boycott of Hand Me Down Night. At press time, 267 students had joined.

"The more I get to know the system the more I hate it," said Bacon. He went on to say that he has had a difficult time obtaining funding in the SGA appeal process through his involvement with the Communications Politics and Law Association. "How can some groups get thousands of dollars, and some can't get $500?"

SGA Vice President Samantha Baime said in a telephone interview there was a feeling among SGA memberslast year that Hand Me Down Night needed reform.

"It's our job to empower the [Hand Me Down Night] committee to make decisions, but people who had such strong opinions about the event last year didn't apply," the former Beacon photography editor said.

When turnout declined and costs escalated at the spring 2007 event, Baime said the Hand Me Down Night budget was separated from all other organization budgets in the Financial Advisory Board process. In order to force an appeal for money this year, the plan hinged on past and current critics taking an active role in the event committee.

"We wanted this event changed this year, so we made [the committee] bring it before SGA," said the theatre studies major. "Everyone completely over-looked the fact that you can only appeal once."

The SGA FAB is composed of students and a faculty adviser that meets each spring in a closed session to compile student organization budget requests.

The board recommends the next year's appropriations to the joint session, who must ratify the budget. Baime said FAB did not ultimately approve the Hand Me Down Night committee's request, forcing an appeal vote this year.

The budget was submitted as a one-time-only appeal to the joint body. When multiple attempts to lower costs failed, the body was forced to vote yes-or-no, she said.

Communication Disorders Senator Katie O'Neil said that although the 300-person event may need to be tweaked, the overall cost benefit is legitimate. "I think five percent of our account benefiting 10 percent of the student body does feel worth it," she said.

Bacon said later in a telephone interview that this confrontation was a symptom of a larger problem. In the meeting, both he and Weiman stressed the need for more openness and transparency in the budgetary process.

Among their concerns is the SGA Web site, which has been down since last fall, a criticism SGA Chief Justice Jeff Foster said was valid and would be addressed in the near future.