Amendment to gove FAC discretionary funds fails

By Katie Havranek

Macalester College Student Government voted down an amendment to the bylaws that would have allowed the Financial Affairs Commission to approve student organization budget requests of up to $1000 without approval by the Legislative Body. The amendment, proposed by FAC chair Alex James ’09 at MCSG’s Oct. 14 meeting, failed unanimously with James abstaining. Currently, the FAC reviews budgets from student organizations and makes proposals to the LB about budget allocations. At LB meetings, the FAC chair announces the commission’s recommendations for individual requests, and after the option for floor debate, the LB either accepts or rejects the requests.

The FAC’s proposal, James said, aimed to streamline the process in order to benefit MCSG and student organizations. “How many times has the MCSG rejected the FAC budgets?” James asked, referring to MCSG’s tendency to follow the FAC’s recommendations.

Because of his close work with student organizations, James said he understands the needs of each organization and their spending history better than members of the LB. James argued that it would be easier for clubs to get money for events on short notice if the FAC was not bound to approval by the rest of the MCSG.

“There will still be a checks and balances system,” James said, “Student orgs can appeal to the MCSG if they are unhappy with the FAC decision.” James also reminded the council that budget requests over $1,000 would still have to pass through MCSG.

Vera Sidlova ’11, a sophomore class representative, was a vocal opponent of the proposal.

“There is no check on places where we give too much money,” she said. Sidlova said she was worried about the possibility of MCSG funds being used irresponsibly and was adamant in reminding the council that they were elected to represent students.

“We were elected for our knowledge of the student body,” Sidlova said, adding that more council input ultimately meant the representation of more students.

Junior class representative Aaron Brown ’10 said that by passing the amendment, the MCSG would be setting a dangerous precedent for future councils.

“I feel that allowing seven students to allocate money up to $1000,” Brown said, “would open [the FAC] up to centralized power and corruption.

“I think the idea of more flexibility for student groups is fantastic,” Brown said, “and I appreciate the desire to expedite the process, but there is an issue of accountability.” He spoke of the need to be held accountable for all MCSG actions-including budgeting. Brown suggested that the $1000 limit be reduced to $100.

“If you look at the budget,” James responded, “most of the requests are clumped around $300 to $600. A $100 limit wouldn’t do much.”

“We are not an ATM,” senior class representative Molly Griffard ’09 said. “We need to encourage student leaders to plan ahead.” Griffard maintained that $600 or $700 dollars is a large sum of money and organizations requesting funds should not throw together projects at the last minute, but plan events ahead of time that will be positive for the entire Macalester community.

Martin Mudry ’09 initially argued in favor of the amendment. “Passing this amendment,” he said, “would mean that students would not have to have them sit through a long meeting.” Mudry told the LB that few budgets by the FAC are disapproved by the LB and that a full report of FAC spending would still be presented to the LB.

MCSG president Alison Tray said she was thankful to James for proposing the amendment even though it did not pass.

“We appreciate the work that Alex put into drafting the amendment,” she said, “but at this time, MCSG did not feel like it could support this initiative.