SGA, we’re paying attention

You can read last week’s front-page story “Just a little ‘off the top’” for the full run-down, but here’s the gist: Student Government used to have total control over clubs’ budgets, and they also used to have a $112,000-deep reserve fund. Now, they don’t. The $112,000 reserve, which was being slowly chipped away by the previous SCORE-form driven budgetary system, will be donated to an as-yet-undetermined array of student hardship initiatives, despite the fact that SGA has put forth plans to spend the money on issues that students say matter to them, like fixing the ineffective desks in Moyer, that have been discouraged by the faculty.

Was this move totally bad and wrong? No. Student hardship initiatives could always use more support, and who knows — the new committee might find a way to shake up the current budgetary hierarchy in a way that more efficiently allocates funding. 

What we at The Weekly are cautious about is the timeline on which all this occurred. SGA claims they were only alerted about the change two or three days before the official vote that changed the organization’s fundamental function and was not fully informed about the plan’s final form or proceedings. The Weekly was given the tip by Dean Gulati on the day of our last production, putting us on a tight timeline to get the news out there from more than one perspective. Why was it so necessary for this plan to be enacted immediately, with almost no collaboration on the part of SGA? 

We, too, are curious about past instances in which SGA has been asked by the administration to use their reserve to fund a salaried position, the Director of Prevention Education. Under 2013 amendments to the Clery Act, which deals with crime reportings on campus and partners with Title IX to provide protections to victims of sexual assault, colleges and universities must provide students, faculty, and staff with ongoing sexual violence prevention education. At Muhlenberg, this responsibility came to be that of the Director of Prevention Education. In 2017, SGA voted to fund the position under the premise that there would be a nationwide search to fill it. Instead, a Muhlenberg counselor, Ann Marie Stevens, was appointed to the role, and by the spring semester of 2019, she was gone. Current director Jules Purnell succeeded Stevens this fall. 

Regardless of whether or not SGA felt that this position was important and necessary (as it is!), they should not have been asked to pay a college employee’s salary with reserve money from the Student Activities fee, especially when student-generated proposals such as fixing Moyer desks using the same fund are not taken seriously. While this continues to be a developing story, The Weekly will continue to cover it and ensure that the student body, for whom we (try to) advocate, is always informed to the best of our ability.

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