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Absence, apathy at budget meeting shows SG’s failing

Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 03:04

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, Student Government (SG) passed the 2012-13 Activity and Service Fee budget, which came in at $13,595,429. 

When handling nearly $13.6 million of student money, one might hope that SG’s student senators would take time to seriously consider the budget’s allocations, or at least attend the meeting.

Yet only 31 of the 58 senators — about 53 percent — were present, with no amendments made and little deliberation beyond questions such as why senators are not paid positions. If SG is supposed to represent student involvement in where their money is being spent, they failed their constituents by not giving the budget more attention.

Before introducing the meeting, SG Senate President Khalid Hassouneh told senators, “This is the biggest thing you’ll vote on. Make sure it counts. If it takes until 2 a.m., it takes until 2 a.m. Take all the time in the world.” 

Yet the budget took less than an hour to pass, demonstrating apathy on the part of the SG senators. If senators had bothered to speak or show up for the budget deliberation, USF students could feel a little better about the way their money is spent, with a more than $700,000 increase in the budget.

Though most governing bodies abide by a quorum, a minimum number of members that must be present to conduct business, no such rule is clearly stated on SG’s website. If the Senate does abide by a quorum, leaders may consider raising it to prevent future embarrassing turnouts.

With only 15 potential Tuesday meetings, 31 members out of 58 showing up for this year’s most important is a disappointment and shows the lack of interest that senators have in response to a very weighty situation. If barely half of the members do not bother to show up to vote on “the biggest thing you’ll vote on,” there is no reason they should hold office.  

Muhammad Shakir, one of the senators that was present, decided in all of the budget’s components to focus on “why aren’t senators being paid?” If the turnout for such important meetings remains so low, there seems to be no reason why the senators should be paid if they are not fulfilling their duties. 

Perhaps there needs to be more involvement from a source outside of SG when it comes to passing something so important. Though it is up to USF President Judy Genshaft to sign the budget or reject it, historically budgets are signed by the president with little dissent. To pass a budget of $13.6 million in student money with less than an hour of discussion and only slightly more than half of senators present fails SG’s supposed goal — to represent the student population. 

With every system, there should be checks and balances. In SG, there seems to be sweeping movements without any debate and with seemingly little concern. Such apathy will do nothing to benefit students and is a disrespectful use of their money.

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Sat Apr 7 2012 16:14
The author of this article should probably do more than the bare bones research to get an article posted. Here's why:

The reason there was little debate in the Senate chambers is because the Activity and Services Recommendation Committee which was called to order the fourth week of school spent the entire first and second semester up to that Senate meeting, coming together almost every Friday to discuss, debate, allocate, and amendment the A&S budget.

The Committee that actually makes the budget is compose of: 7 elected Senators, 2 of which are alternates, the Senate President or designee, the Student Body President or designee, The Appropriations chair, and representatives from the Activity and Services Business Office, and Student Government Activities, Training, and Operations Bureau.

A lot of effort goes into preparing a budget. All of the Student Affairs departments come and present to the committee and are questioned rigorously, and then the committee debates and eventually votes on an initial allocation. After doing Student Affairs budgets, the ASRC representatives meet with the President or CFO of all of the Student Organizations that are requesting A&S fees for their budget. That alone is over 200 meetings.

Senate votes on which Senators they are going to appoint to ASRC, and when the final bill comes down from the committee to the whole Senate many hours have gone into preparing it and the Senators know this is the case. That is why there is little debate. The presented documents are an overview of the committees funding decisions and not a breakdown of every line item the committee heard in presentations with Student Affairs or meetings with Student Orgs. Unless there is something egregiously wrong with the committees decisions which the Senate did have ample opportunity to review since the budget is emailed to all Senators a week before, then the Senate knows it can pass the budget.

Also to address some of the other criticisms:

Senators are not paid. Even if they were they wouldn't get paid for "not fulfilling their duties" i.e. not attending a meeting. This implies that they would be salary workers and would get paid despite not showing up which is ridiculous because no student employee is on salary, they are all hourly workers. Getting paid even as a stipend at the end of the term might give Senators more incentive to come to meetings and be more active though.

Oh, and by the way here are the Rules of Procedure for quorum (which I'm sure you hunted down but could not find):

4.6 Quorum
-----4.6.1 Quorum will be defined as more than half of all active Senate members for regularly called meetings of the Senate.
-----4.6.2 This rule can only be changed by a 2/3 vote of the Senate during a regular meeting.
-----4.6.3 Excused absences will not count towards quorum.

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