Student court tackles frozen-budget policy

The rarely-used Student Court recently became the mediator in a controversy involving whether or not the Student Association should allot special monies to member organizations whose budgets are frozen.

At its April 9 meeting, SA passed the second reading of a proposal which promised Pride Alliance $214.96 to attend the Equality and Justice Day conference in Albany on April 29. Readings are special requests from SA organizations for amounts of money outside of the group's budget to be used for specific things, such as attending conferences.

At the time of the second reading, Pride Alliance's budget was frozen due to a failure to attend previous SA meetings. SA policy mandates that if an organization misses more than one SA meeting per semester, its budget is frozen.

SA Vice President Jarah Magan suggested that the reading not be passed at a time when the organization's budget was frozen. This notion was overruled and the reading passed 5-1-1.

"I was very surprised the reading passed, given SA's financial policy," said sophomore Trisha Davies, PRIDE Alliance's vice president.

"I didn't believe that the financial policy was clear in saying that it [passing the reading] was against the rules," said senior Nick Guy, SA's director of student programming, of his vote to pass the reading.

After the meeting, a student contacted Student Court using the Geneseo e-mail address of the SA-funded Economics Society. The anonymous student argued that SA's constitution is not specific enough about whether a reading can be passed for an organization with a frozen budget. The constitution currently states that a club with a frozen budget is prohibited from making "financial transactions," a term that is not further clarified.

At the Student Court meeting on April 29, representatives of Student Association appeared before five student justices to debate the concern. At the start of the meeting, SA's director of public relations, junior Chad Salitan, angrily left the meeting on the grounds that according to the court's written policy, all parties involved in a claim must be invited to the court session. The chief justice, senior Michael Tedesco, admitted that while the individual who had sent the e-mail had been invited, the Economics Society, whose e-mail account was used to file the complaint, had not been made aware of the meeting.

At the April 29 meeting, Magan stated her belief that organizations whose budgets are frozen effectively have "no rights within SA" until the budget is unfrozen. Kate Rebban, director of SA programs, personnel and finances, agreed that a financial transaction should be defined as an "exchange between two or more organizations" and that readings fall under that guideline.

Other members of organizations who have had their budgets frozen feel that the Pride Alliance should not have received the money.

The club baseball team's account was frozen after they missed a club sports association meeting. "That situation, among many others, shows how bureaucratic and flawed SA is and that SA is not very objective in distributing the resources it receives from the student mandatory fees," said senior Greg Feltes, captain of the club baseball team.

No decision was made by the court at the time. However, at the April 30 SA meeting, the executive board amended the SA constitution's by-laws to clarify that an organization with a frozen budget may not have readings passed.

According to Davies, Pride Alliance members ended up paying their own way to the conference, because SA advisor Tamara Kenney didn't feel comfortable signing the check in light of the controversy.

Student Court, the judicial branch of SA, is comprised of five justices appointed by the SA president who may serve for the duration of their time at Geneseo.