Emerson Democrats denied $2,963 appeal

by Heidi Moeller / Beacon Staff • February 16, 2012

Sga chapman
Samm Leska, Emerson Democrat president, presented the organization’s appeal for funding for a statewide convention.
Samm Leska, Emerson Democrat president, presented the organization’s appeal for funding for a statewide convention.

The Emerson College Democrats were denied a $2,963.50 appeal to the Student Government Association Tuesday for funding that would have been used to host a statewide convention, drawing hundreds of area students and politicians to Emerson’s campus. 

Six members of the SGA voted no to the appeal, while five voted yes and three abstained, ruling that the Emerson Democrats will have to amend its appeal packet and present it to the SGA again, or continue planning the two-day convention without the needed funds.  

Multiple SGA members spoke against the appeal, stating that they did not want the money in the SGA pool account, which is money left from undistributed student activities fees, to be provided to a conference that Emerson students would need to pay to get into. 

SGA Treasurer Tanya Flink said in her two-plus semesters with the student government, she has never seen an appeal be completely denied.

“Members of the Executive Board who have more seniority than I have mentioned three denials in the past two and a half years (not including the most recent one),” the junior political communication and theater studies double major said in an email to the Beacon.

Samm Leska, president of Emerson Democrats, presented the appeal. She said the College Democrats of Massachusetts hosts a statewide convention every year, and after applying to host the event twice, the Emerson College chapter was chosen to be the organizer. The convention will take place in the Bill Bordy Theater from March 31 to April 1. 

“This is an opportunity to get a lot of Emerson students really pumped, especially going into the 2012 election,” the senior writing, literature, and publishing major said. “It’s so important. I want to see this campus be politically active, and that is what you would be investing in.”

The funds asked for in the appeal would have mostly been used to pay for food at the convention, which would draw more than twenty college Democrat groups across the state, Leska said. 

She said they would invite speakers such as Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren to speak. According to the group’s appeal packet, $500 is also needed for an off-campus social event for convention participants. 

Early registration for the convention, happening until Feb. 29, is $13. Ticket prices after the initial registration period will be moved to $18, said Leska. The ticket fee is not waived for Emerson students. 

Flink made the initial motion to allocate $2,463.50, a number $500 less than the amount asked for. The reason for the decrease, she said, was because Emerson can not use the student activities fee to pay for non-Emerson students at off-campus locations. 

Caitlin Higgins, SGA vice president, made the first inquiry, asking if the money made from ticket sales would go to the Emerson Democrats or to the College Democrats of Massachusetts. 

Her question began a series of further inquiries over providing funding for an event that would require all Emerson students to pay for.

Leska said the majority of sales from tickets will go back to the College Democrats of Massachusetts executive board for future funding, including grants to college chapters. Leska said the Emerson Democrats has received grants from the state organization before to go on political trips. 

None of the money raised through the convention, Leska said, will go to political candidates. 

In response to a question from Sharon Duffy, associate dean of students and the SGA’s advisor, about how many Emerson students would be able to participate, Leska said they have sold about 30 tickets so far, but that sales usually increase right before the convention.  

“The estimates of the people that I’ve allocated money for on this appeal is based on past attendance in other conferences, usually between 130 and 150 that attend,” said Leska. 

Ben Halls, class of 2015 president, said during the meeting that his main concern with the appeal was that the SGA would be allocating funds to an event that would not necessarily benefit Emerson directly, but rather a state political organization. 

Higgins agreed and spoke against the appeal. 

“I still think there is a problem in the appeal in that right now we ask students to pay a student activity fee and then ask them again to pay for something that is being covered by their student activities fee,” the junior broadcast journalism major said.

Jenna McPadden, the class of 2013 president, also spoke against the appeal, stating reasons similar to Higgins. 

“My issue lies in the fact that each student pays a fee for their activities to be funded,” the marketing communication and writing, literature, and publishing double major said. “With this appeal, we are not only paying for Emerson students, we paying for students around the area. I don’t feel comfortable having my constituents’ money be spent to pay for other students.”

Flink, who worked with Leska to write the appeal, spoke in favor of the funding. 

“[Leska] is extremely passionate about this convention,” Flink said. “We’ve discussed the events and this seems like an extremely strong convention. I’m a Republican, and she has convinced me to go to this; I’m signing up early. It would benefit Emerson tremendously.”

Maria Warith, transfer student commissioner, also spoke in favor, and urged SGA members to consider the time the Emerson Democrats would need to continue planning the event. 

“I think that asking for a $13 ticket fee isn’t that much of a downpour considering the high profile candidates that are coming,” the sophomore political communication major said. “If they want to have these high profile people come, they have to have this money already sent to them.”

With the majority of the final vote against the appeal, Tau Zaman, the SGA president, encouraged the Emerson Democrats to amend their packet and try for funds again. 

Leska said she was surprised with the decision and plans to try to appeal again, especially given that they did not get the approximately $4,500 of funding asked for from the SGA in the beginning of the year. According to Leska, Emerson Democrats was given about $2,800 for the year.

“I understand the concern with feeding other students,” Leska said. “But I’m just nervous with how the rest of this convention is going to go due to the lack of money, and I’m unclear of what I could do to adjust the appeal to make it better and make it pass.”