FAC chair's term begins in midst of budget 'confusion'

By Matt Day

Two weeks after resolving outstanding student organization budgetary problems left over from the spring, some student government representatives are still leveling criticism at the Macalester College Student Government Financial Affairs Commission and its leadership. FAC Chair Alex James ’09 said that because of administrative errors at the end of last year, several student organization budgets were missing from his records when he returned to campus in the fall.

The FAC is charged with reviewing budgets from student organizations and dispensing MCSG’s funds. The commission is comprised of James, two Legislative Body members, and four additional “discretionary members” appointed by James and approved by MCSG.

“There was a really big organizational shift at the end of last year,” James said. “There was a lot of confusion, people sent things to the former chair. A lot of paperwork got lost in the jumble.”

Henrik Hankonsen ’09, James’s predecessor, said that the FAC used an incomplete and inaccurate list of student organization contacts when it sent out reminders to submit budgets for fall 2008. More than 10 organization budgets were not turned in by the deadline, and MCSG scrambled to complete them before the summer.

James, who ran unopposed for the position in April, said he didn’t know he would have to take over before the end of the school year.

“I thought that I was running to start this school year,” James said. Instead, he replaced Hankonsen as chair in April and was responsible for resolving for the missing and incomplete org budgets.

“I was not prepared for that. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing.”

The confusion carried over into the fall. At least four student organizations didn’t have their budgets approved three weeks into the school year, James said.

Some representatives on MCSG’s Legislative Body said they are unhappy with the way James and the FAC handled the lost budgets.

“There are accountability issues with the lost budgets,” said an LB member who refused to be identified by name in this article. “The FAC should have immediately sent a letter saying it was their fault and asking people to resubmit, but it wasn’t handled that way.

In discussions with five LB?members and three student organization leaders, there was a prevailing sentiment that James handled the situation poorly, failing to communicate effectively with both organizations and MCSG members.

James said he had heard the criticisms. “I find it funny that people would say that,” he said. “When people have actually taken the time to come and speak with me, they’ve said that I’ve been helpful and really polite.

“I would love, if people have issues with me, if they would just come to me.”

Other MCSG representatives said criticism is standard for the FAC.

“Previous FAC chairs definitely got similar feedback,” said another LB member who refused to be named in the story. “I’m not sure to what extent this is Alex as a person or the position. [FAC chairs] deal with people every day they deal with budgets every day. It is a very demanding job.”

Another MCSG representative agreed. “The FAC is human. They’re going to make mistakes from time to time. People think that MCSG is an ATM. The FAC’s job is to decide what is worth funding an what’s not, and naturally people get angry with the outcomes sometimes.”

MCSG President Alison Tray ’09 said she had heard about the FAC’s difficulties.

“I’m aware of the concerns,” Tray said. “We’re working internally to make sure that they have been addressed, and I believe progress has been made. The FAC chair is always a hard position year to year and despite the report of conflicts, we feel that [James] is doing a fine job and learning about the position as we all are.”

Alex Park contributed reporting to this story