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BOG: Board fails to approve budget with stipend

Liz Harter and Ashley Charnley | Thursday, October 16, 2008

For the second week in a row, Saint Mary’s Board of Governance (BOG) failed to approve the Student Government Association (SGA) budget with the necessary two-thirds majority at their weekly meeting Wednesday night.

The budget, which failed to pass in a 14-11 vote, had been revised after last week’s meeting. The original budget included a $20,000 stipend for the Executive Board consisting of student body president Mickey Gruscinski, student body vice president Sarah Falvey, executive treasurer Mo Weaver, Student Activities Board coordinator Michele Peterson, Student Diversity Board president Adriana Rodriguez, Residence Hall Association president Maura Clougherty and executive secretary Jenny Hoffman, who has previously written for The Observer.

The revised budget decreased the amount of the stipend to $16,000 and increased the funding for the College’s Readership program, which delivers the Chicago Tribune, the South Bend Tribune, New York Times and the USA Today to campus each weekday, by $2,000 and the funding for co-sponsorships by $2,000.

Discussion among members of BOG before the vote was short. But after the vote, Health and Wellness commissioner Pauline Kistka said that she thinks she speaks for the 11 members of BOG who voted against the budget by saying they are opposed to the principle of the budget, not the amount of the budget.

“Until the stipend is removed from the budget, we are not going to approve the budget,” Kistka said. “The sooner the stipend is removed, the sooner the students will receive their money.”

Before the vote, Allison Spurlock, the tri-campus commissioner, made a clarification to correct prior announcements at BOG meetings that members of the Notre Dame student government receive a stipend for their services to the University.

“I talked to some of the people on the student government [at Notre Dame] today and they do not get paid,” she said.

Student Services commissioner Catherine Meadors said the budget issue needs to be resolved because BOG needs to show a unified front to the student body and be able to move on to other business.

“Obviously neither side is going to agree on everything, but we need to compromise and we need to come together,” she said.

Every BOG meeting is open to the public and about 25 members of the student body came to share their opinion on the Executive Board stipend. They were allowed to voice their concerns after members of BOG conducted their business.

Junior Wenwen Bai attended the meeting on behalf of the Around the World club. She asked BOG to consider the fact that clubs and organizations are being affected because they cannot receive funding until the budget passes, a fact which Falvey emphasized to BOG members.

“The students need their money,” she said. “This is a filibuster in conventional government so if that’s what this is then all the student body is hurting. It’s not necessarily one side’s fault.”

Senior Jessica Sobzcyk said she does not believe student funds should be used for a salary for the Executive Board.

“It’s not the amount it’s the fact that there is [a stipend] and where [the money is] coming from,” she said. “I don’t think it should come from where it is coming from – from funds that should be allocated to clubs, organizations and co-sponsorships.”

The students in attendance applauded Sobczyk, who also attended last week’s BOG meeting but did not voice her opinions, when she said she is disappointed with the way the Executive Board is handling.

“I’ve noticed a lot of pressure being put on the rest of BOG saying if this doesn’t pass the clubs don’t get the money. Basically the implication is that it’s [the rest of BOG’s] fault. I don’t think it’s their fault,” she said. “I think if you took the stipend out of the budget it would pass like that and everybody would get the money and they would all be happy. Really, it’s on [the Executive Board], so take the stipend out of the budget and redistribute the funds to what it should be and let’s get this year going … Serve your student body, listen to what they’re saying to you.”

Since the budget once again failed to pass, it will be revised by the Executive Board and presented to BOG at its next meeting on Oct. 29.