A group of senators within the Ithaca College Student Government Association are displeased with the handling of the organization’s Appropriations Committee, saying the SGA executive board members violated the group’s constitution by voting on certain occasions when the committee allocated funds to student organizations.
However, Senior Brandon Xing, vice president of business & finance and the chair of the Appropriations Committee, said the executive board had to vote on the appropriations committee out of necessity when members of the committee failed to show up for meetings. He said if the executive board hadn’t voted, the committee wouldn’t have had a quorum and couldn’t have allocated money to student organizations.
Senior Joshua Couce, Class of 2015 senator, said there is a group of 10 senators, including himself, sophomore International Senator Marcell Fischler and sophomore Senator-at-Large Joshua Kelly, who have expressed their opposition to the executive board voting on the Appropriations Committee. Couce said the other seven senators in the group currently wish to keep their names anonymous.
Fischler and Couce said the SGA executive board violated Article 7, Section 5 of the SGA Constitution, which states the Appropriations Committee must consist of no fewer than seven members and have five senate-approved voting members in attendance to allocate any funds to student organizations.
“The e-board has not been sworn in by the SGA senate, which means they are not SGA senate approved,” Fischler said. “It’s the same as if anyone else from across campus would attend the [appropriations] meetings. They don’t really have any qualifications necessarily.”
The constitution then states, “If the above conditions are not met, Appropriations Committee shall only have the authority to recommend to Student Government Association the allocations of funds for recognized clubs and organizations.”
Junior Jamila Carter, senator-at-large and a current member of the Appropriations Committee, said she witnessed executive board members voting in the committee three times during the spring semester. However, she said she had no problem with the executive board voting in the committee because it allowed student organizations to get funding sooner.
Xing said the votes in the committee from the executive board were cast by sophomore Kaitlin Logsdon, vice president of academic affairs, and junior Kyle James, vice president of communications. However, he said the Appropriations Committee is at full capacity again after swearing in two new members — freshmen James Chen and Joseph Fenning — plus Xing’s assistant, freshman Ryan Opila, who will also have a vote in the committee. Xing said the executive board did not vote in the committee’s last meeting and should not need to be going forward.
Senior Crystal Kayiza, president of the SGA, said the section of the constitution requiring senate-approved voting members on the appropriations committee is a gray area within the document, as it does not expressingly forbid executive board members from voting in the committee.
Fischler said while the constitution does not expressly bar the executive board from voting in the Appropriations Committee, he interprets it to say if there is not a quorum in the committee, the allocations process moves to the SGA senate.
“[The executive board] should have brought the budget in front of … the whole SGA body, and not just sent some of their e-board members in order to actually conduct an [Appropriations Committee] meeting,” Fischler said.
But Logsdon said there are already so many other items on the agenda in SGA meetings.
“To add on the Appropriations Committee … to the entire function of the SGA meeting itself, it wouldn’t be a realistic expectation to put on the students,” she said.
In addition, Xing said he felt waiting until there were the necessary number of senate-approved voting members before allocating funds to student organizations would have created a backlog and robbed student organizations of their ability to hold events in a timely manner.
Couce, who has formerly served on the Appropriations Committee, said members of the committee receive training on how to properly allocate money. However, he said the executive board members voting on the committee did not go through this training and were not fully qualified to be allocating money.
But James and Logsdon said they both went into Appropriations Committee meetings fully informed by Xing on the procedures of allocating funds. In addition, they said they are both familiar with the process from having requested funding in the past from the Appropriations Committee for student organizations they were a part of.
Junior Elijah Breton, senator for the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, said when he went before the Appropriations Committee on Feb. 11 to seek funding for the organization Brothers 4 Brothers, Logsdon and James voted.
He said executive board members voting on the appropriations committee is a huge consolidation of power within SGA. However, Kayiza said student organizations have the right to appeal any decision made by the Appropriations Committee to the SGA senate as a whole. She said in this circumstance, the executive board would not be allowed to vote. But Breton said the executive board could still make their voice heard in the appeal process.
Xing said this is not the first time the executive board has voted on the Appropriations Committee during his four years on the committee. He said he remembers executive board members voting on the committee during his freshman and sophomore years.
Ultimately, Kayiza said the decision to allow executive board members to vote on the Appropriations Committee came from a desire to do what was best for the student body.
“The decision wasn’t about a power-play and extending the reach of the executive board’s power,” Kayiza said. “It was fundamentally [about] serving the student body to the full capacity.”
Staff writer Faith Meckley contributed reporting.