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News Student Senate

Senate allocates funding through loophole in bylaws, nearly $3,500 in total

BY JAKE BULLINGTON

This article is reporting on the senate meeting from Sept. 29. The numbers in this article gives context to what the senators understood at the time, but student funds have since been updated to reflect enrollment numbers. Read this week’s Student Senate story (out Oct. 12) to see the updated numbers. 

Student Senate grappled with over $4,000 in three one-time funding requests at its weekly meeting Thursday. Senators around the table were in disagreement over how much to allocate to each student request.

The money allocated is taken from the balance of Student Activity Fees.

This academic year the student activities fee is lower-than-expected. Senate has a deficit exceeding $34,000.

According to numbers, Student Senate expected around $526,000 in student activity fees, but only collected $509,000, a shortage of $17,000.

The first funding motion at Thursday’s meeting was from students planning to attend the Midwest Service Leaders Conference, requesting over $1,000 in order to cover costs associated with hotels, fuel and renting a van.

Six students are attending the conference. Senators posed a flurry of questions to the two student representatives that were requesting funds on behalf of the group.

Senators found this conference aligned with President Martin’s “learning through service” initiative.

“I think this is a great opportunity for the campus to grow,” said senator AJ Treiber.

However, other senators took issue with the ratio of attending students to cost.

“I don’t see the funds being put to great use, specifically for six students,” said senator Joe Herba. “Just because I think the van rental and mileage of $144 doesn’t seem like a great use of funds for Student Senate. I think going back and maybe revising that or hopefully finding other means for going to other organizations to help fund that may be a better use.”

Other senators agreed with Herba regarding the cost of the trip, saying there are more cost-effective ways to travel to the conference, which is located in Storm Lake, Iowa, a 2.5 hour drive from Des Moines.

“I just did a little bit of math here,” said College of Business and Public Administration Senator Ava Witthauer.  “If each six individuals did pay for just their hotel, that would be $30 a person … I’m thinking there are areas in here that we can probably eliminate or discuss about eliminating…”

Witthauer asked members of Senate and the students requesting funds to find areas where they could reduce costs, which would lessen the burden on an already lower-than-expected student activities fee balance.

Senator Grace Rogers echoed a concern that many senators have mentioned in past funding motions over the course of the past year.

“I think that some fundraising efforts might make me feel a little bit more comfortable with this number,” Rogers said.

Others, like senator Russell White, fully approved of the way funds were being allocated.

“I have no issue with this motion,” White said. “I think all six students should go, whether in a van or in two cars. Obviously if they want to go in a van, that’s all up to them.”

Although various concerns were raised, including the cost of renting a van and a lack of fundraising efforts outside of applying for third-party scholarships, the one-time funding request of $1,121.80 was approved by a majority of Senate.

Witthauer, Herba and Rogers all voted against the motion, with 15 other members of Senate voting “aye.” Senator Jackie Heymann’s proxy abstained.

The second motion added to the conversation of fiscal responsibility around the Senate table.

A seemingly noncontroversial motion came to the senators,  a request for $2,312.30 from the Phi Delta Chi pharmaceutical fraternity to cover costs associated with the event St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn. Up ‘til Dawn raised $40,000 last year for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Phi Delta Chi is a dues paying organization, which, according to the Student Senate bylaws, are unable to request funding from Senate.

The loophole to this bylaw is that if a dues paying organization collaborates a non-dues paying student organization on campus, they can receive funding.

Student representatives from the professional organization used the scheduled performance from D+ Improv as an example of outside organizations collaborating on the event.

Herba believed that, despite the caveat, the group was deserving of the funds.

“As far as this event goes, I think that even though this is a dues paying organization, they did set the money aside for this in particular and had been prepared to use that money,” Herba said. “This is also a staple event here at Drake.”

Again, Witthauer arose concerns about whether students’ money was being used as effectively as possible.

“I was thinking I’d like to amend the motion to read $1,800,” Witthauer said. “That is taking away $512.30 from what they’re requesting due to the fact that there have been some concerns with resources that are still very much available on campus. We know that they are for a fact.”

Items like dry erase boards, markers, file folders, clipboards and more are all available in the Student Life Center for either a lower cost than requested or no cost at all.

Regardless, the motion still carried, 16 “aye” votes against two “nay” votes from senators Kenia Calderon and Deshauna Carter. Senator Heymann’s proxy abstained.

The third and final funding motion from Thursday’s meeting brought Senate back from these divisions on funding motions, with a unanimous denial of allocating $1,187.30 to the Society of Physics Students.

Physics students submitted a request for funding to tour the University of Colorado-Boulder.

“It really does just gear itself towards physics students only. I don’t see much outreach beyond those students,” senator Anna Gleason said. “It is a concern of mine to spend this amount of money on essentially a tour of a facility.”

Treasurer JD Stehwien said the students’ trip was likened to “a vacation.”

Other senators echoed similar concerns, that the cost was simply too high to justify the small impact it would have on a broader campus environment, which is the metric senators use to approve or deny funding motions.

The physics students’ request was almost entirely denied, with only senator Alex Maciejewski abstaining from the vote.

In total, two of the three one-time funding requests were approved. Senate allocated $3,434.10 of student activity fee dollars this week.

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