Staff Editorial: SA shouldn’t wager student money on discussion

On Wednesday Sept. 21, the weekly Student Association business meeting saw one of the most intense discussions at an SA meeting in recent years.

SA President Nick Spengler brought to the floor the second of two readings to allocate $5,000 into its Student Government Meetings budget line to be used at SA meetings for the rest of the 2011-2012 academic year.

The discussion was heated, fruitful and overall truly an excellent instantiation of student participation in self-governance. We strongly encourage more students to have their voices heard at SA meetings in the future so that such accumulation of diverse opinion can make all of the SA executive board's votes even more directly reflect the interests of the Geneseo student body.

We also strongly condemn, however, the mechanism used to start this great discussion: a reading that put $5,000 of the SA's budget at stake. We all pay mandatory student activity fees; that's literally all of our money. It is absolutely and unequivocally unacceptable to use it as a way to start discussion.

The reason is this: The $5,000 was not merely a discussion starter, but part of a legislative mechanism that would reallocate funds of the SA's budget. Such a legislative mechanism has real consequences, and if the gamble didn't work – as it admittedly did since so much discussion was had over the reading – then it would have been possible (read: not certain) that the reading would have passed because students outside of the executive board didn't voice their opposition.

Instead, SA should do a much better job of publicizing discussion topics so that in the future students can read a "What's-Up" email, see a flyer on a bulletin board, read a note in The Lamron or see a headline on KnightLink, and know that, for example, there will be a discussion about possibly proposing the reallocation of $5,000 to be used for food and giveaways at SA meetings. That way, the terrific conversation could happen, but without the potentially irrevocable effects of an actual reading.

We understand that there are certain logistical rules governing how exactly discussion happens at SA meetings, but there has to be room for such a common sense alternative to this high-stakes participation game which Spengler played by bringing this to a vote. As he said, "I wanted discussion and this was my method." This method was unacceptable.

To Spengler's credit, he made it absolutely clear that he would not pass such a resolution if he heard a majority opposition to it, but there should be an opportunity to voice opposition before it becomes a necessity in order to avoid a $5,000 decision being made.