In Fall 2009, Trinity’s Association of Student Representatives (ASR), known to us today as SGA, absorbed the duties of the Student Finance Board, a group that comprised students and faculty members and allocated the student activity fee (SAF).
In the Sept. 4, 2009, issue of the Trinitonian, dean of students David Tuttle explained that the 2006–2007 ASR leaders “went to a conference dealing with student government issues, which really peaked interest in creating our student governing body into being more like an actual government” by becoming a distributor of funds.
Though there has been the occasional resolution or initiative, this constitutional change seems to have become the primary role of our current student government, to allocate the $150 per semester per student that makes up the activity fee.
To allocate these funds, SGA follows their bylaws and constitution, last amended in March 2018 and November 2017, respectively. Part of SGA’s mission, outlined in their constitution, is to “[advocate] for the development and advancement of student interests both inside and outside of the university community.” But students rarely question this process.
Neither SGA’s bylaws nor its constitution include specifics about how to fund. This way, no administration is bound by a former group’s standards. This leads to inconsistency.
SGA has limited their funding of T-shirts for student groups, but whether they fund T-shirts in full, in part or at all, has been inconsistent in the past couple of years. Last November, SGA funded only half of the cost for Lunar New Year shirts. Last week, they funded Lunar New Year T-shirts in full.
SGA also often questions whether the cost of an event is proportionate to the number of expected attendees, so a frequent question after request presentations is “how many people will be there?” This year, SGA covered almost $9,000 for six debate team members to attend the National Debate Tournament. The debate team is generally funded through the Department of Human Communication since it is an academic program, and the presenters of the request described the tournament as a recruitment method for the team. The request was roughly $1,500 per debate team member to bring potential students to Trinity; how does that benefit the current Trinity community?
It is SGA’s job to handle your money, whether that 2009 constitutional change makes sense to you or not. Every year, SGA allocates 94 percent of your student activity fee, but every year, that process is essentially up to the discretion of a new set of senators.
Shouldn’t we care more about how our money is spent every year we’re here? Shouldn’t we expect that those in charge of allocating our money are consistent every time they allocate?
It’s hard to do anything active about it when only 15 students on campus are able to vote as members of SGA, but there is one thing you can do. Vote. Go vote in the upcoming SGA elections. Vote for people who will be consistent and attentive to their constituents. Vote for someone you don’t think will let personal biases affect their decisions in senate meetings. Just vote.