Free Meals for Club Members at Your Expense?

The issue: Where exactly is our money going when we pay the “Student Government Fee”?

The argument: We as a student body don’t know and want to know.

The Student Government Fee is a $215 fee that every student must pay every fall term of every year that they are enrolled at Salem College. (For more tuition and billing information please click here)

This money goes to select groups (as in, not all the organizations) on campus to improve the atmosphere and the community on campus for the students of Salem College.  However, most do not have any inkling of where there $215 is going.

On Monday, April 4, 2011, at 10pm, a meeting for the Legislative Board members was held.  The purpose of the meeting was to vote on a new dollar amount each group would receive per student.  All Salem College students were invited to attend.

SGA members broke down what money was going where.  CAB had the highest amount of money per student.  After questions the Legislative Board approved the budget unanimously, advancing it onward for the student body to vote on this upcoming Tuesday, April 12, 2011, at 4pm at SGA town hall meeting.

The next day, an email was sent to a couple of deans, the president of the college, the head of the financial aid office, and several others, including students, CCed.

“Dean Barr,

  I have an issue that I need addressed immediately.  I learned last night during a meeting with the Leg board and SGA members that our student money is being used irresponsibly and uneconomically.  Tuition and Room and Board here at Salem is high enough as it is each year and adding another $250 dollars for a student to pay is quite a burden.  However, there has been a great deal of unrest amongst students on campus about this fee.  The unrest is due to the fact that we as students have no idea whatsoever where this money is going.

  A student at Salem college informed me last night before the meeting that almost all of the groups here at Salem that have direct funding from this $250 dollar student fee will use this money to eat at restaurants like Panera, etc. to have their meetings.  First and foremost, why is my hard earned money used to buy a meal ticket for a group member that I may not know or support?  Second of all, who is regulating this other than the SGA treasurer?  I also learned that, although some groups have a “limit” on how much they can spend for food, none of the groups were willing to give me their price “limit” other than SGA, which was $10 dollars a person.  Please explain to me why we as students who do not hold a leader position amongst these select groups do not also get to eat out on this money?

  The above unnamed student also informed me that CAB had no limit whatsoever on how much food they were allowed to get and most of them would buy one meal and then another one to take home.  This is irresponsible and unacceptable.  I confronted a CAB current member as well as the newly elected Vice President for next year and they told me that they were allowed to get their meals from [name deleted]’s corporate card and that it wasn’t from the $250 fee.  This is also unacceptable, because that is still the student’s money that is funding [name deleted]’s corporate card.  Also, CAB barely does anything anymore.  All of the dances they put on still cost us almost $20 to get into, when they should be free with the $250 student fee.  Also, what else does CAB do?  I ask because the events on campus that I see [name deleted] at are severely lacking and I am not the only person who feels this way.

  In conclusion, I am saying that we as a student body are extremely unsatisfied.  If it weren’t for that unnamed student I would have never known about these meetings taking place at expense of the students.  These groups are supposed to support and improve student life at Salem.  If anything, right now, they are not living up to these standards.  I truly and honestly feel like I am being used and stolen from by members who expect me to pay for their meal tickets as a forced “thank you” for all their “hard work”.  I strongly suggest that monthly statements be emailed out to the student body so we know where our money is going.  This is unacceptable.  Please help.  Something needs to be done before we vote this Tuesday.  The students unwittingly trust their money to people who are abusing it and who try and justify the abuse.  These people need to be held accountable, now.

Thank you for your time and understanding.”

-By Student Who Will Not Be Named for His/Her protection

Dean Barr responded promptly back with this email:

“Dear [Student Who Will Not Be Named for His/Her protection],

Thank you for your message today. You raise some really important questions about the student activities fee and the SGA budgeting process that we know absolutely need to be addressed. This year’s SGA executive board is aware that students report they know little about the student activities fee allocation process, thus they are actively trying to make this process more transparent by providing students with more detailed information about student groups’ use of money and inviting you to participate in open forum discussions.

I will defer to Mary Lynn Paulson, SGA president, to provide you with some important information about how SGA will be disseminating explanatory information and inviting students to engage in this process in the coming week.

One item of note: The SGA student activities fee is $215 (rather than $250 which I believe the amount that students have been quoting), and SGA has worked hard not to raise the fee for a number of years. The allocations to student organizations change from year to year (within this fee amount) based on rationale presented to the Executive Finance Board for review, which is voted on by the student body at a spring SGA meeting.

In the past, students have not raised many questions about the SGA fee allocations or the use of student fee money, but given the state of the economy, it is responsible for you to ask questions, and I know that SGA is encouraged that students are finally becoming more involved in this process.

Sincerely,

Dean Barr

P.S. I also am aware that the Committee on Community has put this item on their agenda (student activities fee allocations) and may soon be announcing a forum specific to this topic.”

What do you think?  Is it right that groups should eat out on the money entrusted to them by the student body to improve the Salem Campus and provide opportunities for the students?  Is there any proof that anything is being done?

Here are some things to consider before you make your decisions:

The Salem Honor Code: “Salem College is a community of honor.  I will show respect for my community by behaving with honesty, integrity, and civility.”

As a responsibility to my honor community, “I will show respect for my community and peers by maintaining integrity and honesty in my daily life and refraining from stealing and lying.

–from the Student Handbook, emphasis mine

SGA Club Description:

“Student Government Association (SGA)

The Student Government Association (SGA) is the means by which you as students govern yourselves and to uphold Salem values such as maintaining a high level of conduct, creating a spirit of unity and developing a sense of individual responsibility and adherence to the honor tradition at Salem..

Student organizations within the SGA include:

  • Honor Council
  • Legislative Board
  • Interdorm Council
  • Executive Board”

–from the website http://www.salem.edu/student-life/clubs-and-organizations, emphasis mine)

Current Population of Salem:

“Salem’s total enrollment of 1,100 includes traditional college students (all women), adults enrolled in the graduate-degree programs in education as well as men and women ages 23 and up who take courses through the Fleer Center for Adult Education.” (from the website http://www.salem.edu/about/fast-salem-facts)

The Math:

1,100 students X $215 Student Government Fee = $236,500 budget for SGA to divide amongst selected groups.

You decide!

Please post comments!  All topics are up for debate!  Thanks for reading.

-ShouldaWouldaCoulda

To view the original article and an update, please click here

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4 thoughts on “Free Meals for Club Members at Your Expense?

  1. You see, I perfectly understand the argument that students want to know where these allocations are going. However, the claim that these “select organizations” are “eat[ing] out on the money entrusted to them by the student body” is far-fetched. You make it seem as if these organizations are going out to dinner on your (your parents’) “hard earned money.” The executive officers of one or two organizations may go out once a semester. You even say that they go to a place like “Panera.” Not exactly the classiest place in the world. Also, I’m not sure that talking to one student is a good enough source of information to make such a huge deal about this; did you talk to the execs of organizations before jumping with your fangs out?

    Consider this: do you realize that members of CAB don’t get paid for a job that was once a work-study position? They sacrifice a lot of their personal time and MONEY, as well, to serve us as they do. They use their own gas to drive when selecting venues for activities. I’m offended that you would even claim that “CAB barely does anything anymore.” That’s just inconsiderate. Do you participate in Salem’s activities? Are you involved on campus?

    These organizations get little credit for what they do. Do they use my money to go to a cheap restaurant once a semester? Possibly. Is it a secret? No. I support my sisters that take the responsibility of trying to help ME by organizing for Salem. They do a lot for us; my way of thanking them is being okay with 50 cents of my money going to buy them a bagel with cream cheese.

    -A student who isn’t part of any group designated to receive SGA funding

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  2. Hey anyone reading this
    The math you have is a little bit off. In the Fall I made the allocations and we allocated for 426 students. In 2009-2010 when I served as the SGA Treasurer we allocated for 429 students. Your math is higher than the allocations made because you are including Fleer Center students and other students that do not pay the student activity fee. They have different sets of fees and we have different services provided from the fees we pay. The student activity fee divides a small amount between 26 different organizations.

    Every year we mail out a letter which outlines what the $215 is going towards, and you also see the results during the year. This money goes to a variety of organizations and to pay for activities on campus. It pays for the handbook, the yearbook you receive, family weekend, money goes to guest speakers, SGA, Fall Fest, and other groups. At the final SGA Town Hall meeting we announce how much money each organization receives. This year SGA has continuously worked to raise awareness about how the student activity fee is spent. Also at Leg Board meetings we do talk about how money is being spent, and all students are invited to attend every Leg Board meeting.

    Leaders on campus have gone out to dinner a few times a year but this is an extension of a training program or as a meeting associated with the extensive work they do, spending hours in planning sessions and working to develop programs and events on behalf of the student body. Also many of the work-study positions were paid positions until 2009, and one dinner out is typically the only compensation leaders receive for working all year. But SGA and the Executive Finance Board have policies which makes sure that student leaders are always held accountable for how they spend your student activity fee.

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  3. I do not believe it is professional to release email conversations between people without both parties consent. Was consent asked?

    Why are some names deleted? Perhaps we should look at the “names deleted” and ask why?

    I understand the importance of being anonymous but in all reality you are accusing student leaders of being irresponsible and dishonest.ShouldCouldaWoulda and Student Who is Not Named, please stand behind your words as you have asked student leaders to stand behind theirs.

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  4. As a former member of the Executive Finance Board I feel that I have a reason to comment on this article. Every month the Executive Finance Board meets and goes through the receipts that every organization presents for the money they spend. Each dollar that is given to these organizations that receives money from the Student Government Fee has to submit financial statements to the Executive Finance Board. They look over them and make sure that they are not using their money irresponsibly. I have been in meetings where we seemed to come to a concensus that a few organizations were spending a little too much on certain things but we as a board decided that the SGA Treasure would talk to these organizations before they were allocated any money for the following year. These organizations might have bought pizza for a meeting or something like that once a year but that was typically the most reckless they got with their money. The only other way to patrol this better would be to get the Executive Finance Board to authorize all transactions before they were made. This would create way too much work for them as I have personally sat with these women over these monthly statments and receipts for an hour trying to make sure the math adds up. The reason why I say the Executive Finance Board would have to be the one to do that is because they get approval to get money out of their accounts now by deans and in order for this process to be more student run it would have to be the Executive Finance Board. I do not think this would be a good solution though. I think the process works fine the way it is.

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