The endowment has caused frivolous discussions on campus between faculty, staff and students for the past month, but contentions have peaked over the past week.
The endowment was a line-item of the Activity and Service Fee Recommendation Committee’s (ASRC) proposed budget bill for the 2018-19 fiscal year. However, it was also the source of conflict that lead Dr. Paul Dosal, the Vice President for Student Affairs and Student Success, to throw out the budget in its entirety and revert to the last “lawful” budget proposal which came from the 2017-18 fiscal year.
In doing so, an uproar from members of Student Government (SG) ensued resulting in a call-to-action video being released and an email being sent to student organization leaders notifying them their organization funding was in jeopardy from ASRC chairman Aladdin Hiba. The video and email asked students to reach out to members of administration expressing their concerns.
“Our response is guided by a sound legal interpretation of the proposed endowment,” Dosal said. “That endowment violates university policy and has rendered the entire budget invalid. That is the heart of the matter.”
In acting as Genshaft’s designee, Dosal also made it clear that the actions he has taken thus far have the support of the university’s senior leadership.
Dosal also said that he has every intention of finding a way to fund student organizations that are eligible, despite the narrative that organization leaders may have heard.
“We recognized from the start that this was a real issue, so in both cases we tried to make it clear that we do not intend to zero fund organizations,” Dosal said. “So, legitimate organizations that have applied for and received funding and are active, I want them to receive their funding.”
Moving forward, Dean of Students Danielle McDonald said that she hopes that members of SG and administration will keep an eye on the future and not dwell on the conversations of past terms. As a part of this, she has taken part in meetings with the leadership of both the executive and legislative branches of SG to come to a resolution on what the forthcoming fiscal year will entail.
According to Sen. Yousef Afifi, the endowment ad hoc committee chairman, he and senate president Sarah Lucker declined taking part in the process of examining the 2017-18 budget in conjunction with the forthcoming fiscal year because they “did not feel comfortable going forward with it because the concept itself violates, in our opinions, the hard work that we all put in, not to mention that the legal justifications are not clear and a little bit shady, so we did not want to involve ourselves in that.”
Such conversation would include brainstorming with McDonald as well as members of SG’s executive branch. According to Afifi, a large portion of the conversations were going to revolve around the reallocation of funds for student organizations, but because it went beyond this, he did not want to remain an active participant of such conversations.
Afifi plans to present an alternative to Dosal’s decision to he and other members of administration during a sit down he will have with them on Friday. However, because the details are still being discussed, he did not feel comfortable disclosing what the alternative would entail by the time of publication at 8 p.m. May 15.
He did however claim that, “we (SG) will get what we want and they (administration) will get what they want if this plan goes through.”
Until that time, however, Afifi is working to exhaust all options for a resolution and continues to weigh hypotheticals and “what if” scenarios, including ones that could result in legal ramifications.
“We (he and Hiba) have talked about the legality of this happening,” Afifi said. “Now, the conversations that me and Hiba have had in terms of us, as in SG, suing or us as individuals suing, that has not been the main focal point of the conversation. It has more so been talks about if a student organization gets an alteration in their budget now … could they sue the university and allege that there were serious illegalities that were thrown into the budget and this process that resulted in getting this alteration.
“If more than one student org alleges that, which all of them have the right to, because almost all of them will have their budgets altered, then the university, not student government, but the university itself could potentially be open to all kinds of legal ramifications. That is not something that would be on us. We were not the ones that asked for the 2017-18 budget to be implemented into 2018-19.”
According to Afifi, however SG has yet to receive any sort of “serious legal consultation,” as he does not feel the situation has reached that point.
Dosal said that he does not expect any legal ramification from student organizations and that the concern of members of SG as to what is and is not legal seems to be ironic.
“We are confident in our decision and the legality of what we are doing,” Dosal said. “It is ironic to have concerns like that expressed from people who have been promoting an endowment that violates university policy, and they have ignored repeated warnings that the endowment would violate university policy.”
Afifi did confirm that if Dosal had chosen to perform a line-item veto on the endowment that members of SG could have technically created and passed an unallocated cash request to fund the endowment, regardless, though he did say that he nor any other member of SG to his knowledge had the intentions of doing so because he felt that would be “deceitful.”
Afifi also mentioned that if Dosal were to have line-item vetoed the endowment as was expected, the money allocated in the bill to fund it would have likely been spent on other unallocated cash requests such as extension of payroll for student affairs departments and materials for certain student organizations as normal, despite Dosal’s reservations about this being the case.
For McDonald, however the core issue lies in SG’s perception of what Activity and Service Fee (A&S) dollars are to be allocated for.
“The way they (SG) look at the A&S Fee is problematic,” McDonald said. “It is not student government’s budget, it is not the senators budget. It is supposed to be for the student body and I think that has been lost along the way. There is still the ultimate authority and the ultimate responsibility with the President of the university.”
Dosal echoed the points made by McDonald and said that checks and balances are in place for good reason, even at the university level.
“Budget authority is not unchecked,” Dosal said. “We all have to operate within certain guardrails and unfortunately this budget proposal went far beyond the guardrails.”
Despite the turmoil, McDonald and Dosal insisted that working together moving forward is the way to reach a resolution and rebuild trust between SG and administration.
“They can continue to beat me up,” Dosal said. “That might be fun for a while. I have thick skin, I can take a lot, but at some point we need to focus on moving forward.”