July 23, 2014

SGA keeps advancements, tightens restrictions on Student Grant Fund

The Student Government Association (SGA) amended the bylaws of the Student Grant Fund Committee (SGFC) at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4. The changes require students to sign “statements of responsibility and financial acknowledgement.”

Taylor Snead (left) and Chris Whitmore discuss the Student Grant Fund (SGF) at the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4. SGA voted to tighten criteria and restrictions on the SGF. PHOTO BY HALEY LUKE

The new forms would make students “accountable to accept financial responsibility for any SGF (Student Grant Fund) already spent on their participation” even if they do not attend the trip, according to the new bylaws.

Forms establishing financial responsibility for SGF allocations are new to the process. The forms will now be available online, along with all other necessary forms.

The changes are in response to student support of such advancements. The proposed changes were originally going to remove advancements to students, said Chris Whitmore, SGA vice president and Chair of the SGFC.

Whitmore was the primary author of the new bylaws. The bylaws were tabled at the last regular meeting due to time constraints and opposition from students. Since then, Whitmore made changes to keep advancements intact.

“The students, they came out and told us how important those advances are on big trips,” Whitmore said at the meeting. “We answered you. We see how important that is, and these bylaws are significantly different than those tabled from two weeks ago in part because we’ve kept advancements.”

SGA will require more information from groups attending trips, according to the new bylaws, to ensure money is not spent improperly. The new rules require a group photo to be submitted of “the entire group in attendance of the event.” Any groups that do not provide such a photo will not be eligible for future SGF funds.

An amendment was made during the meeting to restore a previously omitted sentence from the bylaws. Whitmore’s new version eliminated any consideration for SGF funding for groups that do not apply at least four weeks prior to their event.

Whitmore accepted an amendment from SGA President Michael Grosch to continue consideration of groups not meeting the four-week deadline. Instead, the amendment proposed to restrict such groups to consideration for reimbursement funds only, not advances. Whitmore accepted Grosch’s amendment, classifying the amendment as “friendly.” Friendly amendments do not require a vote.

Grosch’s amendment preserves consideration for groups failing the four-week deadline, but establishes that no group will be considered for funds failing to meet a new two-week deadline.

Taylor Snead, sophomore accounting major and SGA comptroller, was unhappy with the change.

“I’m upset that we accepted this amendment,” Snead said. “I know we need some leniency and we are college students. But we are in college, and that means we are adults, and adults should be responsible for meeting their deadlines, even if they are strict. The policy should be that there is a four-week deadline and that’s it. If you don’t make it, too bad.”

Snead cast one of the two votes in opposition to the new bylaws in response to the friendly amendment. Snead clarified that she supported the majority of the new changes, but voted against because of the “leniency” implemented by not strictly enforcing a four-week deadline.

The new bylaws also account for last-minute dropouts from expensive trips, which have cost SGA considerable funding, Whitmore said.

“When a student gets sick or has an emergency or whatever, and they drop out, we are totally losing that money — it’s gone,” Whitmore said. “We needed a way to address that problem, to make sure our money is being spent on students.”

The bylaws require notification of the SGA vice president within 24 hours of a student dropout after funds are approved. The student group will have 48 hours prior to its trip to find a replacement. If a replacement cannot be found, the student not attending will be financially responsible for any funds already spent on his or her behalf.

“We want the enforcement to be clear for SGA, but we also want it to be clear to students just how they get funding,” Whitmore said. “SGF is a privilege that a lot of universities don’t have. And it’s important for Webster to have, but to keep it, we need to be able to make it work smoothly and keep students from abusing it.”

Whitmore said the new changes were part of an “ongoing process.” He also said there would likely be more changes made down the line, as students and SGA members continue to collaborate.

“It’s a fluid process. As more problems or concerns arise, we will address them,” Whitmore said. “This whole thing has taught me that there is a lot of work to be done.”

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