UA budget meeting sees unexpected amendment proposal

Other branches of student gov’t were disappointed with the UA’s organization

· March 17, 2014, 10:54 pm   ·  Updated March 18, 2014, 3:06 am

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Deliberation of a single amendment to transfer funds from the Social Planning and Events Committee Spring Fling Carnival budget to the Skimmerfest budget kept the Undergraduate Assembly in session until past midnight during Sunday night’s annual budget meeting, leading other student government branches to question UA efficiency.

UA members were taken by surprise at the budget meeting, which had already been delayed for a closed meeting to rehab internal UA culture, when an unexpected amendment was presented by UA representative and College sophomore Julie Bittar . Bittar is the running mate of UA Vice President Gabe Delaney in the presidential race.

Typically, amendments are brought up a few days in advance so that involved branches can consult with their members. On Sunday night, Bittar presented an amendment to transfer $10,000 from the Fling Carnival budget to the SPEC and Class Board joint Skimmerfest Budget shortly after the senior Class Board suggested the change. The Carnival is an event on College Green toward the end of Fling with free food and inflatables.

While no rules were broken, since only UA members can propose amendments, the last-minute proposition marked a deviation from typical budget proceedings and resulted in confusion among UA members and meeting attendees.

“No one was prepared to discuss or debate this amendment beforehand because no one was aware of it except members of the senior class board ... There wasn’t a clear set of facts that everyone was drawing upon,” UA representative and College sophomore Jane Meyer said.

Members of other student government branches were informed that if they were interested in presenting an amendment to the budget, they should reach out to a UA member in advance, who would in turn notify the other impacted branch of student government, NEC Chair and College senior Frank Colleluori said. All budget amendments must be presented in terms of taking money from one line-item and transferring it to another.

Debate over the amendment, which went on for over two hours, involved discussions about the relative merits of Carnival and Skimmerfest and allegations of underfunding to Class Boards.

Despite some confusion as to what Carnival actually entails, opponents of the amendment asserted that the Carnival budget should not be reallocated because of its importance to student safety. The event’s free food is integral in helping intoxicated students sober up, said several UA members.

Other members, however, argued that Carnival features unnecessarily “high quality” food options, such as French macaroons, that deplete valuable budget allocations.

“When they buy French macaroons - which are not inexpensive in the least - I think there are options that are cheaper and that can sober people up just as effectively,” junior Class Board Vice President of Finances and Wharton junior Patrick del Valle , who is also the Lowbrow editor of 34th Street Magazine, said.

Discussion progressed to alternative ways to fund Skimmerfest, which is a joint event by both SPEC and Class Board. Per the proposed amendment, Class Board would contribute the same amount to Skimmerfest that they did last year, while SPEC would contribute less. The proposition was not received well by members of Class Board, who have significantly smaller budgets than SPEC.

“It’s just difficult for us to match SPEC on a dollar to dollar basis just because our budgets are miniscule compared to theirs,” del Valle said. He ultimately left the meeting before its conclusion, citing that he was “fed up” of the unproductive and political nature of the proceedings.

“It was a little bit disheartening in that these are the people who are supposed to be running our school and making policy for us, but we were seeing a lot of gridlock,” del Valle said.

After much debate and many assertions of “I’m tired - let’s end this,” a compromise was reached to take $250 from each class board budget and put it toward Skimmerfest. The compromise also removed $4,000 from the SPEC contingency fund to put toward the Skimmerfest talent budget. The revised amendment passed with a vote of 16-3-3.

The Budget Committee also announced several other changes to the originally proposed budget, including a $250 allocation toward food for UA Steering meetings and a $200 Hey Day fund. Most notably, this year’s budget increase was revealed to be 0.3 percent greater than anticipated, resulting in increased allocations for the Student Activities Council.

Although an amendment was finally passed, the UA’s effectiveness was yet again shrouded in uncertainty.

“The entire meeting would have been half as long if the protocol had been followed,” Colleluori said. “Since the budget meeting had been pushed back, we had more than enough time to problem-solve these issues before the meeting.”

With ballots opening early next week, the disorganized budget meeting marked a hectic dawn to this year’s election season. Even after pledging to propose no new amendments along with presidential running mate Delaney, Bittar introduced the one amendment of Sunday’s meeting.

“I hope constituents consider whether the leaders they have elected are acting in a way that is conducive to the success of the UA and, by proxy, the entire student body,” Colleluori said.

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