Student Government (SG) is uncertain of the extent of its power over the Activity and Service (A&S) fee budget.
The Senate proposed a resolution Tuesday night to ask the State Attorney General’s office to define what allocation and expenditures mean within the state statutes and inquire whether SG has the authority to make rules that govern those who use A&S fees.
SG Senate president Juan Soltero said he thinks SG has this authority.
“We have hopes that the attorney general will agree with us,” he said.
For the resolution to pass, it must be presented twice, making the earliest approval of this resolution the next Senate meeting, June 24.
SG is given the power by state statutes to allocate A&S fees to different entities. Each student pays $8.79 per credit hour in A&S fees, plus a flat fee of $7. SG creates a budget every year that divides this money among student organizations, college councils, Student Affairs and SG.
The state statutes read: “The student activity and service fees shall be expended for lawful purposes to benefit the student body in general … The allocation and expenditure of the fund shall be determined by the student government association of the university.”
The question of authority comes from a misunderstanding between SG and Student Affairs about the use of A&S fees and A&S fee-generated revenue.
SG Attorney General Cordell Chavis said that departments within Student Affairs have ignored SG statutes in regards to the use of A&S funds.
“Countless times, Student Affairs has taken those statutes and ignored them,” he said.
When SG allocates A&S funds to an entity, they are allocated for different uses. For example, SG might give an entity $300 for food and $300 for promotional products. If the entity wanted to move $250 or more between the categories, it must get express consent from the SG Interim Funding and Transfers Committee, according to SG Statutes. Chavis asserts that departments within Student Affairs have ignored this policy. However, he did not say which departments.
Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall said there is not a process in place to request transfers between categories.
“There is not a formalized process … to go back and say ‘I don’t want to use it this way, I want to use it that way,'” she said. “Right now, there is not a process developed to go back and track those kinds of changes.”
Meningall said that Student Affairs has agreed to work with SG to create a formalized system to hold departments more fiscally accountable.
“For me, this is not an issue,” she said. “We’re in agreement that everyone needs to be held more accountable.”
Fairfax Vickers, director of Business and Fiscal/Auxiliary Services, said that if Student Affairs is misspending money, it’s unintentional.
“It’s in naivety,” she said. “There is no intention to go and spend money outside of the way Student Government is allocating it.”
Attached to the A&S Fee Allocation Bill, which must be passed before June 30, is a rider bill that reasserts the SG statutes in regards to transfers between categories and the spending of A&S fees. It also requires that “all A&S-funded departments of Student Affairs and SG, on a quarterly basis, submit a budget performance to (SG).”
Meningall said she has no problem with this.
“All of us, including myself, are in agreement that we need to hold everyone, regardless of funding source, responsible for expenditures,” she said.
SG and Student Affairs are also in disagreement over the governance of revenue produced by A&S funds.
Student organizations aren’t allowed to use their A&S fees to generate revenues, but entities like the Marshall Student Center and the Campus Recreation Center are.
The Marshall Student Center and the Campus Recreation Center are the only A&S-funded entities that generate revenue that isn’t put back into the A&S account. They are allowed to generate money from their A&S funding because these fees support the operational costs of the facilities.
The Marshall Student Center makes money, for example, whenever it rents out a room for a private event. This is considered A&S fee-generated revenue.
Soltero said he believes that money generated from A&S fees should go back into the A&S account, giving SG the authority to budget that money.
“(The account) could grow by millions every year,” Soltero said.
The University, however, classifies those revenues of Campus Recreation and the Marshall Student Center as auxiliary funds. Auxiliary funds are derived from any department that makes its own money, but not all departments that create auxiliary funds are A&S funded. For example, Housing and Residential Education creates auxiliary funds, but it does not receive A&S money, said Dean of Students Kevin Banks.
SG does not have control over auxiliary funds, Student Affairs does. Many departments within Student Affairs receive A&S funding – including SG, which is under the umbrella of Student Affairs – but the entire division is not A&S funded, Meningall said.
“The (state) statute does not give student government the authority for auxiliary funds,” Meningall said.