Tuesday, Mar. 9, the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly senators approved the Fiscal Year 2022 SA Budget, which distributes funding to recognized student organizations on campus through the Student Activities Fee. Prior to approving the budget, senators debated two amendments presented by Sen. Patrick Salsburg ’21 which proposed using SA’s budget surplus to fund additional events by multicultural organizations. The amendments raised concerns from Finance Committee Chair Eugene Lee ’23 and Senate Chair Meghana Boojala ’22, as they violated the Executive Appropriation Committee’s funding guidelines.
Salsburg’s amendments proposed funding the Muslim Student Association’s Muslim Voices event and Fast-A-Thon, Latin American Student Union’s fall Latinx speaker fee, Amnesty International’s JAMnesty concert event and WMFire’s UndocuAlly Training catering. Salsburg justified these expenses by emphasizing the importance of funding multicultural organizations.
“Since we often hear about how multicultural organizations and advocacy organizations on campus are not getting enough funding from Student Assembly, I think it’s important that we should listen to those complaints and continue to increase our funding for them,” Salsburg said.
Lee responded to Salsburg’s statement, agreeing that SA needs to improve funding for multicultural organizations, but pointing out that it is difficult to directly compare funding between organizations. This is due to the EAC process, which depends primarily on how much the organizations themselves request, and only secondarily on how much the EAC approves. Therefore, according to Lee, it is better to look at how much was requested by the organization, versus how much was allocated by the committee, when trying to compare funding.
“It is good to look at prior allocations to see how much an organization received in the past,” Lee said. “However, it might not provide the broader picture, because that was simply what they were allocated, and it does not contain what they requested.”
Lee also explained that Salsburg’s amendments violated two of the EAC guidelines, which are used to fairly provide funding to student organizations.
The first guideline is that SA does not provide funding for fundraising events. Salsburg’s amendment violated this guideline, as it proposed funding both the Muslim Student Association Fast-A-Thon fundraiser and the Amnesty International JAMnesty concert fundraiser.
The second guideline is that the EAC does not give funding for food, unless it is central to the event. Salsburg’s amendment, in contrast, proposed funding for food at both the Muslim Voices event and WMFire’s UndocuAlly event. However, senators often debate the vagueness of the second guideline, debating what “central” means when evaluating funding for food at an event. Lee also noted that the Muslim Student Association failed to show up to their appeals hearing regarding their funding.
Senators then shifted the conversation to the large amount of funding given to Alma Mater Productions, whose annual budget sits at $151,500. AMP tends to receive a large amount of funding from SA due to their spring concert, as well as Charter Day activities. Sen. Jahnavi Prabhala ’22 felt that SA provides too much money to AMP when compared to multicultural groups on campus.
“Recently, we have been talking about how we want to fund more multicultural orgs and just different groups on campus that offer some diversity to this community, and looking at the budget for AMP — and I know this is a very touchy subject — but we felt in Student Life that AMP is getting a lot of funding right now that may not necessarily need to get funded,” Prabhala said.
Boojala reminded the Senate that the discussion was not over the funding of other organizations, but rather about Salsburg’s amendments. She also reminded senators that removing funding from one organization does not mean that another organization will receive more funding, as the EAC process does not work in this way. Instead, any leftover funds would sit in SA reserves.
Boojala and Lee suggested that if senators cared about improving funding to multicultural organizations, then the better approach would be helping organizations request larger amounts of funding that do not violate EAC guidelines, rather than making case-by-case exceptions to the guidelines. Boojala emphasized that SA has a reason to not fund fundraising events, as that spending goes outside the College community.
“Funding was cut for these organizations due to the fact that the funding was used to fund fundraisers, which the money then goes outside of William and Mary” Boojala said. “…That’s what the guidelines say, is that it’s not benefitting the William and Mary community, it goes outside.”
Ultimately, senators approved the funding for the Muslim Student Association’s fundraiser but not the Amnesty International JAMnesty event. Additionally, senators approved both the food events for the Muslim Student Assocation and WMFire’s UndocuAlly Training, believing that they did not violate the EAC food guidelines. The Latin American Student Union’s Latinx speaker fee was approved, as senators believed additional funding would help promote more attendance to the event.
Sen. Nick Matuszewski J.D. ’21 raised concerns over the precedent that SA set with these amendments, wondering what this meant for the other organizations that requested funds for fundraising events and were denied due to the EAC guidelines, especially as SA funded the Muslim Student Association Fast-A-Thon and not the Amnesty International event.
“I feel like if we already set these standards, it’s kind of a weird time to have the discussion on whether or not we want to have money for fundraisers, because, what about all the other organizations we already turned down and they wanted to have fundraisers?” Matuszewksi said.
At the end of the meeting, Boojala expressed her disappointment with senators for the nature of debate over the amendments and reminded senators the importance of their words, recalling issues from spring 2019, when a former senator spread misinformation that reducing media council spending would lead to more funding for multicultural organizations.
“If you were here my freshman year, two years ago, a senator was responsible for incorrect information, saying there was a direct trade-off between funding multicultural organizations and the Publications Act,” Boojala said. “That’s incorrect. If you were even at one hearing, you would know that the process is so much more nuanced than this. It’s very unfair of us to say this is a direct trade-off.”
Boojala emphasized that senators should know the rules for funding student organizations.
“We go through financial training, we try to educate Senate as much as possible about this,” Boojala said. “We bring it up in committees, we talk about it a lot, this is an essential issue to all of our functions. We go through it the entire year, and somehow, every year, right around this time, we bring up a discussion that we don’t have time to go into the nuances of, and it happens every year during the budget. … Today, we discredited, honestly, all 40-60 hours the EAC committee put in and went through hearings and talked to clubs.”
Boojala went on to encourage senators wanting financial reform to speak with her, noting that she said this in the past but received little response.
Senators also passed two bills, the Wasson Code and Constitution Reform Act and the Funding Survey Act. The former 20 page bill was inspired by the efforts of former Senator Will Wasson J.D. ’21 to find and correct disparities within SA’s Code and Constitution. Senators unanimously passed the bill. The latter received some debate among senators over whether a bill was necessary, as it allowed the Secretary of Student Life to poll students on where they prefer to see funding on campus. Nine senators, along with Lee, Matuszewski, Aria Austin ’21, Jane Geiger ’21 and Micahel Martinez J.D ’23, voted no. In the end, the bill passed.
Also at this meeting:
- Sen. Mia Tilman ’24 introduced the BLM Megaphone Funding Act, which seeks to support student efforts regarding monthly Black Lives Matter Protest events through SA purchases of megaphones to loan out to event leaders
- Sen. Sailor Miao ’24 also introduced the Physically Remote, Socially Together Act, which promotes support for remote students, particularly international students, during this semester.
- Senators unanimously confirmed Alondra Belford ’21 to the Elections Commission