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SGA senators criticize rushed portfolio proposal

By Jesse BadeStaff Writer

The SGA senate room built up intensity last Thursday when senators started expressing their concerns for a portfolio that President Ron Singh and Vice President Andrea Standrowicz presented. Standrowicz and Singh were proposing a plan for Student Appreciation Week, scheduled for next week, which involved funding and efforts of which not all senators were aware.

“We felt that we were caught off guard,” said Tevon Hyman, SGA senator. “It seemed like everything was rushed and we did not have a say.”

Ortal Weinberg, another SGA senator, was in agreement with Hyman.

“The portfolio itself, if you looked at the research and everything, was done really well and in depth,” Weinberg said. “But the senate was not ready to see all this planning and times and places that they have to be, and they weren’t told ahead of time.”

This feeling among senators made a simple presentation into a period of intense questioning about how and why such a thing as this portfolio was coming to pass, the timing of it and what it would mean for senate in the coming weeks. One of the major issues brought up was of voting.

Many senators wanted the option to vote on the portfolio because it was using SGA funds and involved a time commitment by its members.

“I think it was a great idea; I think the execution of it was done poorly,” said Duff. “I think that there could have been much more details. I know that some of the approved fliers… actually had a schedule, so the fliers had more planned than the portfolio. I think we should stop calling it a portfolio; I think we should call it a proposal, and I think that these things should be voted on similar to a resolution.”

However, the presenters of the portfolio, Singh and Standrowicz, argued that the portfolio is a presentation of an idea not a definitive action.

“I think a portfolio, just because of what it is -- which is a plan -- doesn’t have to be passed,” Standrowicz said.

Billy Finnegan, senator and public relations chair, explained why there might have been some confusion.

“I had the concept of the portfolio explained to me at a cabinet meeting -- not just this portfolio, but the concept of a portfolio,” Finnegan said. “I understood from the start that the point of the portfolio was to demonstrate the steps our work was going to go, demonstrate the direction in which we would like to go, not provide results. After the portfolio, we would get the results.”

However, the concept of a portfolio was not the only root of misunderstanding and miscommunication at Thursday’s meeting. The funds being appropriated to senate were also hotly discussed. On this topic, Duff said that there seemed to be contradictions during the meeting between Singh and Robyn Kaplan, SGA faculty advisor. While Singh seemed to be saying everything was set in stone, Kaplan explained that there were still a few steps in the approval and funding process.

Later, Weinberg commented on Singh’s statement about the funding already being approved through Megan Andrews and Yeri Lee, the Appropriations Chair and Comptroller, rather than going through the appropriations committee and senate.

“He was wrong to say it was already approved, because that made it seem like the decision was made and that is unchangeable,” Weinberg said.

Later during the meeting, Singh did say that the funding for the programs outlined in the portfolio still needed to pass through the proper channels in the coming week.

“The biggest confusion… was probably the dollar amounts listed in the portfolio,” said Finnegan. “Which were estimates more often than not, to my understanding, because once you put a dollar sign in front of anything people are going to have questions. Because with good cause you have to be concerned; it is our job to responsibly allocate the student activities fee portion that we are given.”

According to Finnegan this concern came back to the desire of many senators to have the ability to pass the portfolio rather than to just have it presented to them.

Duff agreed, arguing that senate should be required to approve portfolios with budgets if it already must approve resolutions that involve money.

“I think it was a miscommunication more than anything, and I think that fell on me and the way I articulated it,” said Singh in regards to the intensity that arose during the meeting surrounding the topic of funding.

Standrowicz agreed with Singh about miscommunication being the root of the problem.

“I think it was just a miscommunication between not knowing what a portfolio is and thinking that all these things are set in stone, because that is not true either,” said Standrowicz.

The concept of cabinet making decisions and imposing them on senate was also brought to the forefront during the meeting and caused various responses afterward.

“I feel like people don’t like the fact that cabinet makes these plans because we talk about being transparent with the students, but then we sometimes don’t feel that cabinet is being transparent with the rest of senate,” said Weinberg. “Because, they kind of make plans and then tell us what they planned.

Singh and Standrowicz also stated that it might have shaken people that this portfolio was coming from cabinet because in the past years cabinet has had issues with the senate.

“It is just like a precedent, from years past,” Standrowicz said. “People think that cabinet is trying to like to be in this secretly little room and planning things.”

For Duff, the issue of cabinet and senate was not relevant to this discussion.

“I think we have gotten over that,” he said. “I think this argument was really about common sense, basic details, and transparency. I don’t think to blame it on this sense of paranoia that ‘the cabinet is taking over’ and that we are threatened by that; that is not why I was asking questions, that is not why Tevon was asking questions, people around me were asking questions, Devon was asking questions, wasn’t because of that. We were asking questions because we wanted to know the details of everything that we were going to be doing and we didn’t have those details.”

This week, the amount allocated to senate will be discussed and distributed. While Duff and Weinberg believe that not all the funds will be given to senate, there were various opinions about how much funding changes will affect Student Appreciation Week.

“The only reason why we had to vote on this is because we had this money, this $3,000, that had to get voted on, which may not all get funded,” Duff said. There are certain parts of the budget that SGA cannot fund or can only fund to a degree.

“I don’t think it is all going to get approved but I think the majority of it will. As SGA we have to think wisely about how we spend our money and it can’t be all on our own events,” said Weinberg. “If anything changes, I think it is not going to be drastic.”

“I think, from what I gather, everyone was really for the idea of Student Appreciation Week. So I think that senate will be okay with the funding,” Hyman said. “I am pretty sure there are going to be more questions asked about the funding. But I think, overall, the funding will be passed; I think senate will be behind Student Appreciation Week.”

When Singh was asked how budget changed might affect the portfolio and cabinet’s plans for Student Appreciation week, he had this to say.

“A lot of it isn’t binding on financial concerns. It’s more toward just the act, the gesture, the intent of student appreciation and I don’t think a monetary value can affect that,” Singh said. “The student appreciation is still going to be there from SGA’s behalf and everything we get will be put towards that appreciation and activities.”

With all the discussion and concerns surrounding this portfolio, Singh has made adjustment plans for the future.

“For future portfolios, what I would change is more scheduled input. It is always welcome and I think that’s great,” Singh said.

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