SGA ‘mis’allocations

Generally, the Fort Hays State Student Government Association spends the better part of the academic year working on the allocations process, deciding which student organizations receive funding for the next year. Generally, this process brings about high tensions and heated debate, but this year was different. What happened behind the scenes meant almost every student organization left the table happy, but the long term cost may be more than student organizations are willing to bear.

The total amount of money distributed by the SGA this year was slightly above $720,000. This amount reflects money collected from various sources, but the bulk, over $400,000 was collected directly from students fees. SGA is meant to listen to student organizations, weigh the best interests of the entire student body, and make recommendations as to what groups should receive funding. This year, however, even before the first reading of the allocations bill, problems in the process began to emerge and careful observers noticed that numbers just didn’t add up, but for most people on the FHSU campus, concerns can’t begin without an understanding of the general process and how this year was different.

This year’s numbers break down like this.

A total of $418,470 was generated from campus credit hours, $75,000 originated from the office of the FHSU President, Edward Hammond, $41,470 was generated by virtual college students that have enrolled in on-campus courses, approximately $10,000 is given by North Central Kansas Technical College, for mutually beneficial student programs, equaling a total amount collected from these sources of $544,940. SGA however chose to recommend over $722,000 be allocated.

This is where the problem lies and it is not the only problem potentially facing SGA and student organizations next year. Only 60 percent of the money historically collected from student fees will go into the allocations process next year, following the passing of the F.U.N.D.L.E.

Before the allocations bill detailing what the SGA recommends that each organization receive in funds, a smaller group of student senators meet with each organization, hearing requests as to the amount of money they would like to receive. This year, that group was led by allocations chair, Breanna Tendick. Tendick was unaware of how the total is generated, where the money comes from, or even how much money there was in the account to allocate.

“That would be more the treasure’s side of things, so I don’t know how to answer that,” Tendick said.

Treasurer Brandon Taylor did not have the answer either, instead directing questions to SGA president Chris Roberts as did Carolyn Campbell, who operates as Roberts Chief-of-Staff and has been a treasurer of SGA previously.

“We receive information about how much money we have,” Campbell said, “We basically have to communicate with a couple different offices that are kind of in charge of looking up how much money we have…we are told how much we have to spend and we allocate as needed.”

The total “is kind of a thing that goes through Chris,” Campbell said.

“We do know what the total is, some years we like to put some to the bank, so that we are able to allocate more in the future…so that we had a little bit of a buffer,” Tendick said. “We decided what we would like to keep as a buffer so that we know that we are financially stable for future years, the committee comes up with so that we know each of the organizations are satisfied.”

This year Tendick said, “Just to be fair, we come up with all across the board cuts.”

The minimal cuts to organization requests, however, cannot cover the staggering difference in funds that have been created by the SGA this year.

The SGA has, over the past few years, generated a reserve fund of $167,691, which was used to cover the difference in the amount collected and the amount allocated this year, but still a deficit remained. This did not deter the SGA, as another source of funding was found.

Last year money was allocated to The University Leader, the print publication at FHSU, and KFHS TV/Radio, the broadcast service, but in preparation for the convergence of these groups into the Tiger Media Network a flat amount of $75,000 was given to the new organization. Roberts, working with university administrators, decided that the money originally given to T.M.N., because it was not being utilized, could go back to student organizations. At allocations time Roberts was not sure the money would be moved into the SGA allocations budget, as the T.M.N. committee had not yet met to decide.

“I feel strongly it will be approved,” Roberts said. No matter if that $75,000 is there or not the “money will still be divvied out.” At the time of the first reading of the allocations bill, neither the Chair of the department in which T.M.N. is housed, Informatics, nor the university controller was aware of the shift in funds, it was, however, verified by Interim Provost Chris Crawford, who agreed it was in the best interest of students that the money be utilized, rather than sit in a bank account for another year. Without T.M.N. funding there would have been a deficit in the allocation recommendation of approximately $9,500.

The money was not being utilized by T.M.N. and no plans to use the funds existed in the current fiscal year. With this additional $75,000 in funding, the SGA managed to avoid over allocating funds, in fact leaving over $62,000 in the account, $12,000 over the controllers recommended buffer of this year.

However, this will not be the case next year.

If SGA collects similar dollar amounts for next year there will be a huge decline in available funding, stemming from the passing of the F.U.N.D.L.E. bill and this years utilization of almost the entire buffer. The bill removed $2.20 from the $5.57 per credit hour student fee collected from students. This fee is the bulk of the allocations funding. The F.U.N.D.L.E. bill also removed the standard increase for inflation for fiscal year 2015. This will directly translate to the a drop in funding available for student organizations applying next year.

Arin Powers, candidate for Vice President of SGA and member of the allocations committee this year, appeared on Talking Democracy, produced by FHSU American Democracy Project, this week, in part speaking about the allocations process. Powers dodged questions about the drop in funds available next year, instead giving current President Roberts and Vice-President Reed Tevault credit for working with students.

“I think the best example of how successful it was was simply the fact that we were done in about two hours, where typically the allocations meeting can last up until midnight or later,” Powers said.

Despite her praise of the committee, she was unable to answer basic funding questions, and had funding levels wrong.

“This year we gave away I believe it was $675,000…we gave away every amount we possibly could,” Powers said.

“We were able to boost this from 60 percent funding what they asked to 80 percent,” Powers said. “It wasn’t an extra amount, it was just the way we were able to do the funding this year. It wasn’t extra coming from anywhere.”

And while next years problems will soon loom over student organizations, many problems plagued this year’s entire process.

During the first reading of the allocations bill, the SGA went into executive session, a term that is a procedural part of Kansas law, referring to the closing of a governmental meeting in order to discuss maters of personnel. Members of the SGA, under the condition of anonymity confirmed that in both executive sessions called during the meeting, the senate did not discuss the matters purported under the closing of the session. The closing of the session was not listed of the agenda, and failed to comply to SGA rules.

According to article four, section 402 of the SGA constitution, “All meetings of Student Senate and Student Senate committees shall be open. The only exception shall be when a successful motion has been adopted to proceed into executive session, in accordance with the Kansas Open Records Act, as defined in K.S.A. 75-4318.” Section B explains further, “Any meeting is required to move to executive session when matters involving individual students and their conduct are discussed. Extreme care is to be given to protect the student’s right to privacy and due process. This in no way precludes an open discussion of philosophy during confirmation proceedings.”

While sources confirmed this was not the case, Moran Lawrence, chair of the senate affairs committee, could not explain why the session was closed.

“If you want to talk about this I think you would want to talk to our president,” Lawrence said.

Roberts declined to comment on that issue.

Outside of the closed sessions, the allocations committee itself had made critical errors in the bill submitted to the full SGA.

The original bill had allocated a total of $715,000 the bill at second reading allocated a total of $722,000, explained in the meeting as an incorrect spreadsheet being used. The bill shifted funding for six organizations, some receiving cuts, others receiving additional funding. While the second reading quickly addressed the error, the full meeting brought little debate to the process, and only minor shifts in funding. The second reading lasted less than two hours, referred to as a ‘record time’ by members of SGA on several occasions.

SEE THE VIDEO OF THE ALLOCATIONS MEETING HERE

With less funds available, allocations next year will likely be far more contentious. The university, next year, is recommending $585,317 for allocations, utilizing over half of the remaining buffer. A drop of funds equaling $136,937. Putting this into perspective, in order to balance the budget with this number 24 of the lowest funded student organizations would need to be zero funded to make the difference, including Encounter, the Fort Hays Honor Society, Tiger Claws, the Black Student Union, the American Democracy Project, and others. Funding for student organizations is secure, for the time being, but the massive cuts are unavoidable, without action from the university. This is not the last step in the process however, the SGA allocations budget remains a recommendation to the FHSU President, the final budget for student organizations go through that office.

Members of the FHSU administration were contacted, for this story, along with Roberts, Tevault, and Tendick and declined further comment.

Members of the SGA can be contacted at 785-628-5311, the SGA office is located in the downstairs of the Memorial Union.

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