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What is SA? A breakdown of UB Student Association

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How did UB snag artists like Schoolboy Q and Young the Giant to perform at school concerts? How were Magic Johnson and John Oliver brought to campus as distinguished speakers?

UB’s student government – and your money – makes it happen.

The Student Association controls a budget of approximately $4 million made up of the $104.75 mandatory student activity fee that nearly every student pays each semester. This money funds Fall Fest, Spring Fest, Distinguished Speaker Series events, homecoming weekend activities and clubs.

SA has multiple partnerships that provide students with additional services like a tutoring center, lockers for commuters, Sub-Board I, Inc. services and more, said SA President Minahil Khan.

For the upcoming year, SA will continue its traditional concerts and comedy series while expanding homecoming weekend and Buffalo Untapped, an on-campus event which features food trucks and beer tasting. SA is also reintroducing UB Trippin’, a series of small excursions around the City of Buffalo.

But with no oversight from the university, the organization has not been devoid of scandals over the years. From a treasurer allegedly attempting to steal $300,000 to a president resigning amid allegations of harassment and mishandling funds, $4 million in the hands of students has caused some controversy over the years.

It is important for every student to know what his or her $104.75 is going to, so here is a breakdown of the different parts of SA and how it controls your money.

Executive Branch

SA’s executive board – its most powerful branch – is made up of the president, vice president and treasurer. Undergraduate students elect these three students near the end of every school year. President Minahil Khan, Vice President Sean Kaczmarek and Treasurer Joe Pace ran unopposed in this year’s election and are leading SA for the 2015-2016 school year.

The e-board has a significant control of the budget, enforces the bylaws and constitution and appoints all of the SA staff members. The three e-board members also all sit on the Emergency Powers Council, which can be used to enact legislation and approve budget transfers without Senate and Assembly approval.

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch is made up of the Senate and the SA Assembly. The Senate is a group of student representatives that decides how SA will spend its money. E-board members, coordinators and the Assembly Speaker are responsible for the assignment of the SA budget and determine the budgets for each SA club.

The SA Assembly deals with issues important to students and votes on all constitutional changes. The Assembly also approves the president’s platform, his or her appointments and passes legislation. Any student can become a member with just 40 signatures.

Judicial Branch

The judicial branch is also known as the Student-Wide Judiciary (SWJ) and is composed of about 20 members. SWJ is a student entity that judicially settles non-academic student regulation and has the power to set penalties such as warnings, counseling and expulsion from UB.

A large number of the cases result from University Police reports. Other cases come from SA election disputes and other disputes in the student government.

Sub-Board I, Inc.

Sub-Board I, Inc. (SBI) is SA’s independent fiscal agent owned by the seven UB student governments. This is something a lot of other student governments don’t have because it is not owned or operated by UB.

SBI is a non-for-profit corporation that receives a student allocation fee from the seven student governments – SA gives SBI the most. The fee is determined by how many students are enrolled at UB and is currently at $9 per student after a 50-cent increase was approved by the board of directors in May. SBI had hoped for the fee to go up to $10 and predicts it will operate at a $18,000 deficit even with the increase.

SBI provides other services to UB students such as safety escorts and shuttles, WRUB radio station, health and safety service events, legal consulting and an SBI pharmacy.

SA clubs

Students at UB come from over 100 countries and SA gives these students the opportunity to bring their cultures to Buffalo. There are over 130 clubs in SA and the number can continue to grow.

There are six club councils: academic, engineering, international, People of Color (POC), Special Interest Services & Hobbies (SISH) and sports.

“All incoming students will be able to find a club that interests them,” Khan said. “Joining clubs as an incoming student will give you the option to become a club executive board member and allows students to plan unique events while learning valuable skills.”

Clubs are either permanent or temporary and are all required to fund a certain percentage of their budget through fundraising events.

Elections

The SA e-board is elected every spring in the SA general elections. The president and vice president must run on a ballot together, while the treasurer can be elected independently. The elections usually bring in a small amount of student voters but a lot of drama.

Only about 15 percent of the student body typically votes in the elections and last year – with Khan, Kaczmarek and Pace running unopposed – brought in just 1 percent of the student body to the polls.

Candidates often vy for students’ votes in the Student Union lobby throughout election week and have accused each other of improper election techniques. Former Treasurer Justin Neuwirt accused former President Travis Nemmer of rigging the SA election to get Nick Johns voted into office in 2013. Ali Ahmed, a treasurer candidate who ran independently and was not elected, accused members of SA of treating him unfairly throughout the election process and hindering his ability to be a viable candidate in 2014.

Parties used to have to run with four SUNY delegates, whose role is to advocate for students in Albany, but changes were passed in 2014 to have the president simply appoint the delegates instead of having students elect them.

The Assembly passed another change to have the president and vice president run on separate ballots – meaning a president and vice president from different parties could be elected – but the Senate never passed it. SA higher-ups realized this mistake over the summer but admitted there was never a general announcement made in time for the Senate to pass it. It is unclear whether or not the Senate will vote on the change before next year’s election.

SA scandals

SA scandals have been ongoing for years.

In 2012, former Treasurer Sikander Khan allegedly tried to invest $297,000 of student funds into a mobile app for a fraudulent company that he appeared to have connections to. Khan was reported to the University Police Department, resigned and hasn’t returned to UB since.

President Nick Johns resigned within the first month of his presidency in the fall of 2013 after he was accused of harassment, falsifying time sheets and mishandling funds and SA members circulated a petition to have him impeached.

In 2008, Generation Magazine exposed SA of spending student funds on trips to Toronto and Los Angeles and $12,000 salaries for e-board members. SA’s three e-board members ran unopposed that year and were accused of not publicizing the election on purpose. In 2009, President Hassan Farah was impeached after allegedly punching a staff member.

SA was devoid of major scandals last year outside of controversy surrounding its new website. The organization finally launched a new website last spring but many students felt the price – anywhere from $7,500-$9,500 – didn’t match the design and functionality and feared SA Entertainment Coordinator Marc Rosenblitt was given the job to create the site without other candidates being considered. 

Current SA president Khan has said there are no plans to update the site at this time.

Gabriela Julia is the senior news editor and can be reached at gabriela.julia@ubspectrum.com


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