Sub-Board I holds rally against UB's fiscal agent decision
Students, faculty members marched to the fifth floor of Capen Hall to voice discontent
Roughly 40 UB community members flooded the fifth floor of Capen Hall on Tuesday morning. They occupied chairs, couches and the floor while yelling “No Way FSA,” and “Save SBI.”
The group, which held a protest in Founders Plaza before making its way to Capen Hall, protested UB’s decision to make the Faculty Student Association the fiscal agent of student funds over Sub-Board I. The move, which takes effect on July 1, will also result in the elimination of SBI-funded services such as the South Campus Safety Shuttle, free legal services for students, radio station WRUB and SBI’s housing portal.
UB community, including student leadership and faculty members, have criticized the decision. GSA President Jessica Coley, SA Vice President Anyssa Evelyn and incoming SA President Yousouf Amolegbe attended the rally. UB Chief of Police Chris Bartolomei and Deputy Chief Josh Sticht patrolled during the rally. A petition addressed to UB administrators titled “Save SBI” has gathered roughly 2,800 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
Students carried signs with photos of FSA board members and titles like “Hands off my student body,” “Protect student autonomy” and “Don’t punish us, we didn’t embezzle.” Students at the rally spoke about how they felt SBI’s services benefitted the student body, and many brought up former Vice President for Student Life Dennis Black, who was found guilty of embezzling roughly $320,000 from FSA in 2017.
Vice President for Student Life A. Scott Weber and Vice President for Finance and Administration Laura Hubbard said last week that FSA implemented “substantial internal control programs” in the aftermath of the Black’s embezzlement conviction. These internal control programs, Weber said, would also be implemented in all student governments to “ensure appropriate usage of their funds and to mitigate risk of any fraud.”
Evelyn, an outgoing senior, said that although she wasn’t personally affected by the move, she wanted to attend the rally because of the “mistrust” her peers have with FSA.
She also said that while she has faith in the incoming SA e-board, the timing of the move would make it hard for them to understand the situation given that they “don’t know what SBI did for SA before.”
“If I was an administrator who supported this, it makes sense to do it at the end of the year,” Evelyn said. “So you don't you don't have seniors to really support [the move]. More often than not, seniors and upperclassmen are the student leaders.”
Amolegbe said that he hoped that SA will be able to supplement some of SBI’s services and “cover up the gaps” left by SBI to the “best of his ability.”
He said as an international student from Nigeria, he previously used SBI’s legal services for immigration-related matters.
“I think that's something that will definitely hurt our international student population especially because ISSS can’t give legal advice,” Amolegbe said.
Last week Weber said International Student Services will provide legal support on immigration matters, but Assistant Vice Provost For ISS Katie Tudini said that ISS serves as the immigration sponsorship for international students but cannot give students legal advice.
“We are not lawyers. We cannot practice law,” Tudini said. “That would be unauthorized practice of law, which is a felony.”
UB spokesperson John DellaContrada later clarified, saying “the process is being finalized” to look into ways legal staff from the Office of International Education can help students with immigration-related matters.
SBI President Jennifer Schechter, who holds various positions on UB committees, including representing student input on the One World Café steering committee, said at the protest that she felt student voices were going unheard.
“It's a little troubling, especially because we're told that we get these seats at the table to have a voice but now you're not listening to us when we are exercising our voice,” Schechter said.
Weber said, in a statement, the move to make FSA the new fiscal agent will result in students paying less in fees and that student governments will continue to make decisions.
“Student governments will continue to make programming decisions and establish the budgets for their student activity fees,” Weber wrote in a statement. “Additionally, students will retain a voice by serving on the board of the Faculty Student Association and helping to direct its decision making.”
Tanveen Vohra is a senior news editor and can be reached at Tanveen.Vohra@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @TanveenUBSpec.
Jacklyn Walters contributed reporting to this story.