SG expands employment funds, Campus Rec hours

After a night of heated debate, Student Government (SG) passed a bill Tuesday that will use student-paid Activity and Service (A&S) fees to increase Campus Recreation Center (CRC) hours and fund student employment across campus.

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Khalid Hassouneh, adds $77,003 to CRC’s $2,501,703 budget to keep the facility open for 16 more hours per week. Its current schedule is a result of inadequate funding, he said, after the SG A&S Recommendation Committee (ASRC) allocated funds in April.

Additionally, $5,376 will be allocated toward building a handicapped-accessible automated door for CRC’s main entrance, while $13,452 will go toward Fitness and Personal Training programs.

The bill did not pass quietly. The allocation of $50,000 toward existing student employment positions in the departments of Veterans Services, Dean of Students Office, Marshall Student Center and CRC caused some senators to dispute its transparency.

Hassouneh said the funding was allocated to these areas after state budget cuts provided the Division of Student Affairs with only $500,000 – $2.5 million short of their expected budget. The department requested SG completely fund the Associate Director of Student Affairs position, an administration position.

“If I have to pick between saving an admin job or students’ jobs, I’ll side with the student,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do at the end of the day. If we fund the admin, all we’re doing is proposing job security to someone who already has it.”

While the bill does not create new employment opportunities, Hassouneh said it allows the departments to spend the money they already have on non-student employment areas.

Senate President Pro Tempore Rachel Brown opposed the bill. Because funds for the budget passed by ASRC earlier this year have already been dispersed, she objected to Hassouneh’s and student body President Matt Diaz’s plan to write a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA), which would allow funds to be transferred, with Student Body President Matt Diaz without the Senate’s oversight.

“This is a lie and a cover-up,” she said of their ability to write the MoA.

Former SG Attorney General Cordell Chavis, who created the MoA during the 2009-10 school year, walked in with a bag of popcorn and spoke to a frustrated Brown while Hassouneh continued presenting. During a moderated discussion, Chavis asked to speak.

Nakita Kiger, chair of the Committee on Rules, said because Chavis was no longer an SG member, a senator would have to yield time to allow him to speak.

Brown yielded time to Chavis and Hassouneh objected.

Chavis directed a coughed “lying a——” to Hassouneh under his breath before returning to his seat.

“Ninety percent of what the senators voted on was coming out of the Senate president’s mouth,” Chavis said in an interview with The Oracle. “You really shouldn’t have the chair of the body proposing bills. It’s very intimidating, and he used his bully pulpit to ram down this legislation.”

Chavis said he was disappointed at the lack of details presented in the budget for student employment.

“When (Hassouneh) said the Senate delegated authority to the Senate president to write the Memorandum of Agreement, that is not true,” he said. “That has never taken place before. What he was speaking of was something I created with the former administration to ensure that the student body was spending and appropriating A&S funds once the bill is signed for the year.”

Attorney General Brian Goff said he was unaware that MoA’s could be written by the Senate president and student body president, but said Hassouneh has said for the past three years it’s been done. Goff said he would investigate.

Diaz argued with Chavis about the legality of the MoAs, but ate some of his popcorn in an attempt to smooth the volatile tensions of the evening.

The bill passed 29-6, with one abstaining vote.