COMAC deletion bill sparks controversy, may not proceed

It is unclear if the COMAC deletion bill will proceed any further. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

Student Government (SG) passed a bill on Sept. 25 that will potentially remove the College of Medicine Allocation Council (COMAC) as a result of allegations of irresponsible conduct based on SG regulations.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Yousef Afifi created the bill to dismiss COMAC because of concerns relayed to him by other senators about transgressions and possibly improper funding. However, COMAC Chair Elisabeth Givens said the council has acted in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that were arranged at the time.

Afifi’s bill passed in the Policy Committee — six members voting yes and two voting no —and in Senate —  24 people voting yes and four voting no.

SG conducted a town hall meeting on Oct. 5 with the Activity and Service Fee Recommendation Committee (ASRC) and COMAC members to review funding standards for this year.

COMAC served as a middleman between budget submissions for the medical organizations and SG. If the bill is officially approved by Student Body President Moneer Kheireddine, medical organizations would go to ASRC directly for budget approval.

After the conclusion of the town hall meeting, however, Givens said she does not believe the deletion bill will progress any further because of the decision that was made to make collaborations between ASRC and COMAC.

However, Givens said she was unaware of the COMAC deletion bill until the day it was being discussed. She was given opportunities to vouch on behalf of COMAC at the policy and Senate meetings, but she said the bill passed within the same day.

“We’re really frustrated,” Givens said. “This bill came out of the blue for us.”

Givens said COMAC is meant to follow a timeline that caters to the students in the medical field.

“Right now, medical student organizations are already working on their budgets,” Givens said. “If the bill passes through Moneer (Kheireddine) and (vice president for Student Affairs & Student Success) Paul Dosal, the timeline is not something they would be able to accommodate to.”

After participating in viewpoint neutrality training — which is to prevent delegating funds unfairly to student organizations — Afifi said COMAC still presented an illegitimate budget, which was the breaking point for him.

“Year in and year out, we hear the same issues from COMAC — they’re not just mistakes at that point, they’re choices,“ Afifi said. “A lot of the times it has been a blatant disregard for abiding by SG standards.”

In previous years, SG would review the budgets of funding councils and divide the averages, but because of the allocation requests from COMAC every year, last year SG viewed the budgets individually.

“The dollar amounts that COMAC would request were so far above the uniform standard we had created that we were applying across the board,” Afifi said.

Afifi said looking at the numbers individually, “COMAC acted with no fiscal sense or logic.”

Senate Finance Chair Salud Martinez stated at the town hall that COMAC was mistakenly using Title VIII Finance Code instead of SOPs made by ASRC.

Givens said the SOPs that COMAC used to allocate budgets last year was passed by the policy committee, but ASRC did not agree until after the budget submissions were concluded.

COMAC said they were approved by the policy committee $7 a head for funding and were reduced to $4 a head by ASRC, which contributed to the budget being reduced by 75 percent this year, according to Givens.

In February of last year, COMAC presented a $106,501.89 budget request to ASRC and were allocated $49,961. Afifi said the numbers were an unrealistic amount, which is why the allocated amount is exceedingly lower.

According to Givens, COMAC was under the impression that ASRC and Student Business Services (SBS) used different entities and standards, which was a factor for their budget decisions. Additional miscommunication issues included a confusion in documents that were supposed to be sent to the policy committee but instead were sent to ASRC and issues with specific budget forms that COMAC did not use.

Afifi said COMAC members knew that the possibility of the committee being terminated since May of last year.

Givens said if the deletion bill was discussed two to three years ago, when it was contextually relevant, then it would be appropriate to pass, but she said COMAC was not responsible for the errors that were made in previous years.

During a COMAC meeting in January 2017, 57th term Senate President Aladdin Hiba documented infractions to attest to the mistakes he said COMAC was making on a yearly basis.

Hiba gave COMAC an ultimatum stating that if the council organized an efficient way to disburse funds, he would withdraw authorship of the bill he created to dismiss the council.

Any errors since then were not made out of malice, according to Givens, but out of miscommunication about ASRC’s allocation standards.

Givens said she cannot speak for the previous years, but she said she believes removing COMAC will negatively impact medical organizations and the work she has done thus far.

“With the efforts I have been making to improve COMAC, this is unfair treatment because I have made substantial improvements and taken every step necessary to make sure that we are voting and approving budgets in a neutral manner,” Givens said. “Those steps that I have been taking are being disregarded.”