On the Nov. 3 meeting of the Vassar Student Association (VSA), 2015 Class President Casey Hancock called for a closed session, during which time the VSA reconsidered the fund allocation to the student organization Act Out!. The VSA called this closed session based on allegations that aspects of Act Out!’s fund application had been falsified. The VSA had already approved the Finance Committee’s recommendation for funding, as stated in the Consent Agenda, at the beginning of the meeting. However, the VSA waited until Open Discussion, and more than an hour after they had approved the funds, to reconsider the funding.
We at The Miscellany News feel that this series of events displays a serious lack of communication between the Finance Committee and members of the VSA council, and underscores issues of oversight in the fund allocation process. We are also concerned that VSA adopted the Consent Agenda without voicing the fund-related concerns finally expressed at the end of the meeting. If members of the VSA Council were troubled by aspects of this allocation, they should have removed it from the Consent Agenda and made it the last agenda item of the meeting. This would have prevented much of the confusion surrounding the funding process.
The Finance Committee reviews fund applications based upon a number of factors, including the standing of the student organization requesting funds, as well as the fund’s contribution to the betterment of the organization and the campus as a whole. When an organization requests funds from the VSA, the Committee meets with representatives from the student organization in a closed meeting to determine the amount allocated. During these meetings, any member of the Committee has the opportunity to ask the representatives about their organization’s activity, why the requested funds are necessary for improving both their organization and the greater campus, and any other pertinent concerns that the Committee may have.
We at The Miscellany News feel that the Finance Committee meeting serves as the proper forum in which to express any concerns about funding, and that it is inappropriate to do so at the last moment of a VSA Council meeting. In order to ensure that the Finance Committee avoid waiting until the VSA Council meeting to resolve funding concerns, the Committee should thoroughly fact check all fund applications submitted by organizations. This would include reviewing the organization’s mission statement and confirming the size of the organization’s general and executive bodies with outside parties. These fact checks should also include a thorough review of the organization’s programming history over the past three semesters. Any concerns that arise during this fact check should be voiced in the Committee meeting, as they may influence the recommendation of the Committee, and before VSA Council formally approves the funding.
Even with this increased diligence from the Finance Committee, other members of the VSA Council should carefully consider the minutes of Finance Committee’s meetings and actively question the Committee’s recommendations before approving the Consent Agenda.
The Consent Agenda, while in practice is oftentimes adopted without question, should be viewed as a legitimate venue in which to express fund-related concerns. VSA Council members should remember that fund allocations are merely recommended by the Finance Committee, and that members who do not sit on the Finance Committee have every right to question the Committee’s recommendation.
VSA Council members should also understand that by not questioning a Consent Agenda that includes suspicious fund allocations, they are passively allowing Vassar’s money to go toward potentially unworthy causes. Members of VSA Council should take the responsibility of funding seriously, especially since a majority of these funds come from students via the Student Activities Fee. Instead of assuming that the Finance Committee always makes fully-informed fund allocations, VSA Council members should actively discuss their insights regarding a student organization before passing the Consent Agenda. Given the limited funds controlled by the VSA, Council members should also remember that when approving fund allocations, they are choosing to fund certain causes at the expense of others. This gives the VSA Council a large amount of power over these organizations, and is therefore something Council members should not take lightly. We understand that debating the Consent Agenda after it was approved is necessary in some cases, such as when representatives from organizations appeal for more funding. However, the VSA should seek to minimize these instances by making fully informed decisions regarding the organization in question.
We at The Miscellany News recognize the overwhelming privilege that the VSA has in its ability to allocate large sums of money to student organizations. However, we demand that Finance Committee conducts more thorough investigations of the student organizations that apply for funding, and that the Committee relay any concerns to the rest of the VSA Council before approving funding. Moreover, we demand that VSA Council members who do not sit on Finance Committee articulate their concerns regarding the fund allocation recommendations while discussing the Consent Agenda. This will ensure that the VSA Council approves funds in a more active, informed manner.
—The Staff Editorial represents the opinion of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.