The Student Association executive board and senators were disappointed with the tone of Friday’s senate meeting.
So were we.
The meeting’s procedure revealed more than personal gripes between SA officials.
We believe the budgetary process overall, along with SA’s lack of publicity for senate meetings, deserves greater attention.
Senators decided on how SA would allocate its $4.5 million for the 2019-20 year on Friday. Senators also voted to raise stipends a combined $2,250 for next year, split between the incoming president, vice president and treasurer. SA e-board stipends have increased $17,250 total — $5,750 each — from the 2014-15 stipends, according to Spectrum records.
That’s a lot of money and the increase alone is $3,000 more per year than the average UB teaching or graduate assistant’s net stipend.
The increase came after an alternative proposal that contrasted current SA treasurer Tanahiry Escamilla’s proposal to keep stipends the same. SA senator and 2019-20 VP-elect Kendra Harris helped present the increase and cited her passion for helping students with low incomes sustain themselves if they are working 30 to 40 hours a week.
Indeed, this is important and would incentivize those in lower socioeconomic classes to participate in their student government. Yet we hope SA looks at this and advocates for causes beyond its own government’s pockets next year, since most students don’t make $17.50 an hour for a 30-hour work week.
But SA treasurer Tanahiry Escamilla indicated that Harris, along with SA president-elect Yousouf Amolegbe, met with her two hours before the meeting on the stipend topic.
If this is the only communication they had, we’re disappointed in our student government and hope officials better communicate on how SA spends the money of 21,000 undergrads.
We also think senators (some who double dip and make up the finance committee) could have had a public hearing in addition to its budget vote. Municipalities like Erie County have public hearings as do other government bodies, so why not SA? After all, students will pay their $109 activity fee to fund SA in the fall.
Even if student government participation continues to decline, students should still have a say in where their money goes.
One thing SA could do to buck the trend of decreased participation is through transparency. Escamilla said she did not send the proposed 2019-20 budget to senators before the meeting in case it would be misunderstood or posted online.
Senators could have discussed the budget with Escamilla before Friday’s meeting, but this still gave SA senators just a few hours to officially decide on $4.5 million of your money among themselves, since senators said SA officials never sent them the meeting’s agenda or budget prior.
This isn’t OK.
Our staff agrees that we wouldn’t misinterpret this budget in an article. We know it’s a proposed budget and the budget is not final until after the senate’s approval process. We also hope senators know this, too, before they share it.
But, at the end of the day, we were shocked by senators’ behavior in the meeting. A number of senators, who have a responsibility for 21,000 undergraduates’ money, decided to use the meeting’s four hours to check social media and throw out personal slander.
If the meeting was such an important meeting, all senators should have treated it as such.
SA senate chairperson Eric Weinman said the meeting was not about the budget itself but about the complaints people had.
We couldn’t agree more.
But SA officials should communicate their concerns and their budget desires well before a Friday night at the end of a semester.
The editorial board can be reached at email@example.com