Student Government Association Treasure Divine Tanamal and Finance Committee Chair Ronald Babiak announced a restructuring of the finance committee which will shrink the number of voting members down to four non-SGA students and three student senators. According to Treasurer Tanamal the smaller number of voting members will create a space for debate on the allocation of funds which was lacking when the membership was larger.
The purpose of the Finance Committee is to work with the SGA approved student organizations and to decide when it is appropriate to provide additional money to support organization’s events or trips. According to Babiak, the SGA bylaws currently state that the committee only requires at least three senators, SGA Treasurer, Finance Committee Chair and an administrator.
The structure of the committee has student organizations present their requests to a large panel of committee members then after the presentation then has voting members discuss whether to grant the additional funds. According to Treasurer Tanamal this structure is leading to a lack of debate and the growth of a “group think” mentality.
“I was a little disappointed last year when a lot of the allocations were being done and people were not really debating about them,” Tanamal said.
She said that meetings last year would have roughly 15 voting members present but only a few would lead the conversation and other members would agree without asking questions or engaging in debates.
“I just want to encourage healthy debate within the student senate in general because we, ran for a reason, we have diverse minds for a reason and we don’t ever want to ever force [an] unproductive cohesiveness,” Tanamal said.
Babiak said the current bylaws limit group participation and “hinders the diversity of students and perspectives as well as [a] range of opinions that can be expressed.”
Both Tanamal and Babiak stressed the importance of increasing debate between members before allocation of the funding.
“I want to be sure we’re getting quality comments and we’re getting to decisions that are actually debated,” Tanamal said.
Something new from this restructuring is the requirement of an application to join the committee which Tanamal said she hopes won’t make SGA more exclusive. Tanamal said she hopes the addition of an application encourages more serious commitment to the finance committee members.
“We’re dealing with real tuition dollars, we’re dealing with $50,000 this year and that’s not a joke,” Tanamal said.
Babiak said this restructuring is him delivering on his platform of transparency from when he was running for student government. He said that the best way to achieve transparency is by allowing non-SGA members to be involved in the decision-making process.
“Having students not affiliated with the organization in attendance and voting on allotments gives them an understanding and appreciation of how and why we operate the way we do,” Babiak said.
“Having the committee be composed of the same people for the entire semester, members will feel comfortable expressing their opinions to each other and come to a consensus through a shared understanding of what should be prioritized in assessing a presentation,” Babiak said.
According to Babiak if the changes are successful then he will present an amendment to the bylaws to make the changes permanent.
“I was a little unsure about it [restructuring] in the beginning because like I said I didn’t want to make SGA too exclusive in a negative light, but at the same time if this will lead to better conversations and efficient decision making then why not give it a try,” Tanamal said.
Mia Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.