At the end of last semester, Student Association (SA) discussed whether or not they should fund non-SA organizations with money from the Student Activity Fee. At their March 5 meeting, the group voted to create an account for organizations not sponsored by SA if the proposed activity fee increase is approved by students at the end of the semester.
SA Vice President of Academic Affairs and Governance Jordan Taylor said that for non-recognized SA groups to access this money, certain stipulations must be met. However, these stipulations and requirements have yet to be defined.
Despite the majority of senators voting in favor of the account’s creation and the usage of the Activity Fee, some senators are weary of allowing groups who are not bound to SA guidelines using SA money for programs.
While we understand the financially- tight situation some non-SA recognized groups may be in, we at The New Paltz Oracle strongly encourage SA and the Senate to temporarily rescind the decision and then revisit the account’s approval once the stipulations are determined and defined.
We want to stress that we do see the reasoning and need for the account; due to socioeconomic situations based on the school’s demographics and the varying sizes of individual fraternities and sororities, some of the smaller groups are not as able to handle the costs of being as active and visible as other groups. It is of the utmost importance that smaller organizations, at the very least, be afforded the chance to provide as much of a service to students and the community at-large as bigger Greek groups are.
But there are several areas which, when considering that Senate has already agreed to this, cause us great concern in regards to the nature of the account and what is needed to access it. For now, no one knows exact details of how the account will operate. That’s a lot of nothing to agree to.
So far, members of SA E-board, senators and Greek Life members, as well as Director of Student Activities and Union Services Mike Patterson, have said that the money will only be available for programs that are hosted on campus and that these programs must, in some way, benefit the campus community. Greek Life members have said the programs will go toward informative and educational programs, with ideas for usage of the funds be put toward bringing keynote speakers to campus.
While we do believe using the money for these reasons will prove beneficial for the campus, we need to know where and what exactly that increase in our Student Activity Fee will go. What constitutes as an “educational program?” What (or what will be) is the criteria necessary for invited keynote speakers to receive money? How much money will be put into the account? Most importantly, what are the specific guidelines non-SA organizations must meet in order to use SA-operated funding?
Due to the lack of recognition from SA, we do hope that the stipulations needed will be strict and firm. SA-recognized organizations also have specific criteria to meet, such as completion of a charter, mandatory attendance at Council of Organization meetings and proof of operation, among other things. Before we readily agree to an increase in our activity fee, we have a right to know exactly what that increase is going to.
We also have a right to know the answers to questions concerning where the money goes when we ask. When Taylor was asked about what an increase in the Student Activity Fee would go toward for the March 13 cover story of The New Paltz Oracle, Taylor said that money would be allocated to enhancing projects SA already funds, specifically citing the Loop Bus Service and the Child Care Center.
However, according to Patterson, SA has never funded non-SA groups, at least not through an account that used money from the Student Activity Fee. If members of SA wish to continue campaigning for an increase in the Student Activity Fee, they need to know every specific of what that money will provide for. Not doing so is non-transparent and irresponsible.
As we mentioned in our March 7 editorial, an increase of as much as $10 may seem small on a semesterly basis, but that adds up. This may be insignificant for some, but it could make the difference between SUNY New Paltz serving as a financially-attractive option or one that’s just out of reach.
We understand the importance of this money and the benefits it could provide for our fellow students. However, it is irresponsible to approve something as significant as where student money will go when that final destination has yet to be fully determined.
We would like to encourage Senate to spend more time discussing the stipulations. We hope that at future Senate meetings, the stipulations will be discussed in further depth, as well as the final amount of the expected increase. We commend SA for looking out for the best interest of all students who take part in activities on this campus. However, we ask for careful consideration in regards to the spenditures of student money.