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Forum to address Executive stipend

Liz Harter | Monday, October 6, 2008

Saint Mary’s students with questions or concerns about the Student Government Association (SGA) budget discussed during last week’s Board of Governance (BOG) meeting will have the chance to voice their opinions and find answers at an Open Forum for the SMC Student Body on the subject today at 5 p.m. in the Student Center Lounge.

Senior Sarah Voss planned the event after hearing about the issues raised by members of BOG about the budget, specifically the $20,000 stipend the Executive Board allotted for themselves.

The budget was prepared by executive treasurer Mo Weaver, and voted on by student body president Mickey Gruscinski, student body vice president Sarah Falvey, chief of staff Lauren Theiss, Student Activities Board Coordinator (SAB) Michele Peterson, Residence Hall Association (RHA) coordinator Maura Clougherty, Student Diversity Board coordinator Adriana Rodriguez and executive secretary Jenny Hoffman, who has previously written for The Observer, and lays out the allocation of funding for the $243,040 which SGA received from the student government fees each full-time student pays.

The budget is a recommendation for Vice President of Student Affairs Karen Johnson and Director of Student Involvement and BOG advisor Patrick Daniel who will either approve or reject it, Falvey said Wednesday.

The Executive Board can choose whether or not they wish to accept this money for their services to SGA and the student body.

“Last year was the first year they did [take a stipend],” Weaver said at the meeting Wednesday. “They told us about it at the end of last year so it was something we needed to vote on.

“This year we’re looking at things like making ground rules not just for this year but it’ll continue in years to come,” she said.

While it is not specified in the SGA Constitution if the Executive Board can set aside a stipend for themselves, it is also not stated that they cannot, Falvey said Wednesday. The addition of a clause stating whether or not they can will be taken to the Constitution Oversight Committee and Falvey said she hopes it will be more explicit in the Constitution next year.

Many BOG members expressed concerns that the stipend was voted upon by the students who will receive it and the fact that the stipend is coming out of student funds at the meeting, which Voss said were echoed by the student body.

“Several students expressed to me their frustration,” Voss said. “They wondered if the BOG and administration understood how they felt about the topic. Thus, the idea for an Open Forum was born so that all student’s voices’ could be heard.”

The Student Government Constitution states that “all Saint Mary’s College students are members of the student government association and have the right to voice their opinion on the actions of these bodies,” which is why Voss took it upon herself to plan the event as a concerned student, which has been publicized through a Facebook event.

“The only thing I want to accomplish is to let students voice their opinions on the budgeting issue. I want students to know that the BOG and administrators should make decisions that are in the best interest of the entire student body,” she said. “[I] simply asked to reserve the Student Lounge, acquired a few microphones, and send out invitations to students on Facebook.”

Voss said both Johnson and Daniel will be in attendance at the event, as will a few members of the SGA Executive Board.

“Several members expressed great interest [in the forum] … regardless of which side of the issue they stood on,” she said.

Johnson said she thinks a lot of questions about the budget and why last year’s Executive Board was the first to take a monetary stipend for their service to the student body will be answered by the forum.