Petition calls for SAC transparency on moratorium
The petition currently has 169 electronic signatures and 82 written responses
October 12, 2013, 2:40 pm · Updated October 13, 2013, 9:57 pm·
At the one-year mark since the enactment of the Student Activities Council’s moratorium, students are calling for more transparency in SAC’s decisions via a petition being circulated online.
Former Undergraduate Assembly representative and College senior Nikolai Zapertov created the petition. It calls for SAC’s Executive Board to submit a document to the UA treasurer detailing what SAC has done so far this year to resolve the moratorium, which restricts new student groups from receiving funding or recognition from SAC and was implemented last September.
The petition also demands “an honest affidavit from the [UA] Treasurer, as a servant to the Penn student body, about their impressions of how SAC Exec is handling the moratorium.”
UA Treasurer Tiffany Zhu, a Wharton senior, said in a statement, “The UA and SAC exec are aware of the recent petition and are working to get more information to the public. I, along with Abe Sutton and Jen Chaquette from SAC, are currently working on an op-ed article that will be explaining this issue more in depth.”
In a column published in The Daily Pennsylvanian last semester, SAC Chair and College senior Jen Chaquette and UA president and Wharton and College senior Abe Sutton explained that facilities costs on campus are rising at an average of 15 percent per year, while SAC’s funding from the UA increases only about 5 percent annually. This gap, as well as student group debt in the past, contributed to SAC’s decision to enact a moratorium.
Chaquette added that SAC is working with campus facilities to make their costs more transparent to student groups “in the near-term” while the longer-term issues are being addressed.
Chaquette said that there are no substantial updates about the moratorium right now. “SAC Exec is working with the UA at the highest levels of the administration … to push for lower facilities costs,” she said in an email .
Zapertov is unhappy about the lack of clarity in SAC’s approach to ending the moratorium. “One of my frustrations is that [SAC] only reveals information that has been official information at SAC general body meetings,” he said.
He noted that transparency is important to every student because a small part of every student’s tuition is allocated to student government and because of the moratorium, is not fairly distributed back to students who wish to start their own groups.
Of the 169 students who had signed electronically at the time of publication, 74 percent said that they have been negatively affected by the SAC moratorium.
Zapertov collected an additional 82 handwritten responses. Among these responses, a total of 31 groups who have been left out by the moratorium were mentioned.
“It’s simply lazy not to take a proactive stance and allocate funding as it is due. If a club overspends, their budget should be reduced, not held constant while others cannot start,” one responder wrote.
“Penn seems perfectly happy to address every conceivable inequality on campus except the fundamental inequality of the current funding system,” another responder to Zapertov’s petition wrote anonymously.
“If we have enough money for a ‘Time to Shine’ concert then we should have enough money to fund new groups,” another petitioner added.
Zapertov said that he does not expect immediate results but hopes to give the student body more of a voice in the way the moratorium is being addressed. “We all know it’s a complex issue,” he said, “[but] it should be the number one thing in SAC’s purview.”
SAC’s Executive Board elections are scheduled for this Thursday and a new SAC Chair will be selected internally after the Board is elected.
“The SAC moratorium is still in place (and the general body is still very much in support of that), but we do have ongoing advocacy efforts we are engaging in to resolve the issues underlying the moratorium,” Chaquette said.