SG freezes student organizations funding

Four student organizations’ budgets have been frozen after a March Masquerade event.

The Fasching/Mardi Gras/Carnevale Masquerade, a student-hosted event funded by Activity and Service (A&S) fees, came at an unexpected cost as the French Club, German Culture Club, Italian Culture Club and Atheist Student Alliance (ASA) had their budgets frozen Thursday for a potential Proviso breach.

Student Government (SG) Judiciary and Ethics Committee chairman Adam Oldfield said it is a “temporary freeze” pending an investigation that will be conducted by the committee. He said the Proviso is a governing document that regulates how A&S funds can be spent.

“There was a sign found on the door to the event,” Oldfield said. “It said only specific people were allowed. The sign really shouldn’t have been there, so they had to get the (Marshall Student Center) building manager to take it down.”

The sign in question read: “Private Event” and “French, German & Italian club members and guests only.”

Because all students pay A&S fees on their tuition statements, all events that are funded by them must be open to all students, Oldfield said. He said he is unsure as to who posted the sign and the committee is still in the beginning stages of the investigation.

“Right now, we’re in the process of collecting the statements from all of the different organizations (involved),” Oldfield said.

The grievance was officially filed in the “middle-to-early week” of March 20, but Oldfield said he was aware of the situation previously. The Mardi Gras event was held March 9. Oldfield said the situation will likely not be solved in time for the SG Senate meeting Tuesday.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to get through it that quickly. I’d really like all of the different organizations to be heard,” he said.

Oldfield said when his committee is ready it will make a recommendation to the Senate.

“If there are any gaps in (statement) information, we’ll ask (the organizational contacts) questions, and then we’ll recommend to the Senate any sort of repercussions or lack thereof based on what the committee finds,” he said.

It would then be up to the Senate to vote on that motion, he said. Senate Pro Tempore Khalid Hassouneh said there is a range of repercussions a club can face for a breach of Proviso.

“(There is) freezing of their organization indefinitely, which would remove their eligibility for A&S funding, or they could face some kind of penalty where they repay the fees that they used, whatever the cost of the event was or the third thing is they could be cleared of all wrongdoing,” Hassouneh said.

While an organizational freeze is an option, Oldfield said he is not sure yet if that will be necessary in this situation.

“I imagine that will only take place under a very serious violation of Proviso,” Oldfield said. “This very well could have been an honest mistake on someone’s behalf.”

Bassem Taki, treasurer for the ASA, said there are more than 200 members in the ASA, including three officers and about 60 active or visibly involved members.

“It would be a very big blow to us,” Taki said. “It’s something that’s hopefully not going to happen.”

The Masquerade event took place from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. March 9. Taki said he arrived late at about 9 p.m. and never saw the sign, though he was made aware of it by the French Club President Nora Butris, who declined to comment. Taki said the absence of the ASA’s name on the sign should clear them of wrongdoing.

“I think it clearly indicates that (the ASA) didn’t have anything to do with it,” Taki said.

However, Oldfield said the fact that the ASA is not listed on the sign does not necessarily rule them out of the investigation.

“It’s possible (the ASA was not involved), but we have all the purchase orders and ASA was on all the purchase orders for the events,” he said. “So while it’s possible they didn’t put the sign up, I can’t know that for sure.”

Taki said he spoke to Oldfield by phone Friday after receiving an email from him with an attached Official Statement form. He said he was worried about one line in the body of the email where Oldfield wrote, “There needs to be some sort of justification for the sign out front and someone, or some group, must be held responsible.”

“I looked at that and I was like, ‘What is this? Are they just trying to find some kind of scapegoat?'” Taki said. “And I asked (Oldfield by phone) on Friday, and he said, ‘No, you know, we’re just trying to get to the bottom of this.'”

Meanwhile, Taki is hoping the Senate does not freeze the organization’s budget indefinitely as a resolution to the infraction.

“We are going to send some people to the American Atheists (National Convention) if they allow us to use our travel money,” he said. “The first event is between (April 21 to 24) in Des Moines, Iowa, and this is very important, we’ll be representing ASA and USF.”

Representatives from the German Culture Club and the Italian Culture Club could not be reached for comment.