During their second to last meeting of the year, Student Government Association (SGA) Senators voted 7 to 4 to deny the concept of the Greek Council annual operating budget. A re-vote motion is expected to come during SGAâ€™s last meeting of the year scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 24 in the Waxahachie Room.
As the decision currently stands, Greek Council will receive $0 of their requested $36,075 from SGAâ€™s portion of the student activity fee paid by each Trinity student. The Senate departed from long standing precedent of approving the operating budgets of University Sponsored organizations (USO) by denying the spirit of Greek Councilâ€™s budget, the first part of a twostep process that ultimately decides whether or not funding is given.
â€œThe Senate voted to deny the spirit of Greek Councilâ€™s budget proposal, which means the concept of the budget was denied,â€ said SGA President Nick Santulli. â€œMeaning we didnâ€™t deny a specific dollar amount, we denied the entire idea of the budget.â€
Vice president Joseph Khalaf explained some of the general reasoning behind the voting majorityâ€™s decision to deny the concept.
â€œA majority of the concern was that the funds are allocated towards a group that not everyone can join or benefit from,â€ Khalaf said. â€œThe general philosophy, or theory, behind allocating the student activity fee is something that benefits the student body at large. Some senators didnâ€™t believe that allocating that large of a portion of money would benefit the student body. Others felt that due to experiences with Greek Council programming that it was irresponsible to allocate such a large portion initially. We fully expect them to come back with funding requests on a case-by-case basis.â€
While the president and vice president do not have a vote in budget decisions, the president does have ways to influence the voting body.
â€œI can veto the denial, because I can veto any motion as long as itâ€™s not overridden by two thirds of the Senate,â€ Santulli said.
An appeals process for this denial does not exist in the constitution of the Trinity University Undergraduate Student Body.
â€œIf a senator motions to re-vote, that motion is seconded and then that motion is approved by a simple majority of the Senate a re-vote can happen,â€ Santulli said. â€œSenators have been inundated with feedback. I guess weâ€™ll see if that affects their decision on Monday. It is possible that the decision will stick.â€
First-year senator Tyler Tinker told the Trinitonian that he plans on motioning the first SGA budget concept re-vote.
â€œIt would be ignorant of us not to,â€ Tinker said. â€œThere will be a motion at the very least, and hopefully it will go our way this time.â€
Tinker was one of four other senators that voted in the minority seeking to approve the spirit of the budget.
â€œThe vote moved quickly,â€ Tinker said. â€œWe didnâ€™t really see all the information for something that sets a precedent as big as this. I didnâ€™t even understand the scope and I was already saying â€˜guys this is going to make a huge impact.â€™ Two days later, Iâ€™ve received 60 emails from different people from different aspects of life, like alumni and other groups. Itâ€™s made an even bigger impact then I could have ever imagined. Iâ€™m very disappointed that it had to be that way.â€
Jeremy Allen, the Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life, discussed the perspective of the Greek Council in their budget presentation to the SGA.
â€œI do think that they think they didnâ€™t get a fair shot at presenting our rationale for funding, and if there were such big concerns with the budget, I think that students were looking for more follow-up questions,â€ Allen said. â€œWe had a 10-minute presentation, with three follow-up questions, and then we receive an email an hour later saying our budgetâ€™s not being considered. So why didnâ€™t we have a chance? If they had big concerns about the spirit of funding or the spirit of Greek Council, students were looking for an opportunity to address any concerns that SGA had, and they just didnâ€™t have that opportunity.â€
Sophomore Senator Manfred Wendt and Junior Senator Alex Perkowski both voted for the motion to deny the spirit of Greek Councilâ€™s budget. Perkowski told the Trinitonian that he plans on defending his original position in the next meeting.
â€œThere have been a lot of messages sent my way both for and against funding,â€ Perkowski said. â€œBut none have really been real, substantiating or convincing arguments for me to say that Greek Council should get their money in advance.â€
Wendt elaborated on why he believes that Greek Council budget allocations should more closely resemble those of Registered Student Organizations, who request funding on a case by case basis.
â€œBasically we think that Greek Life is getting too much funding,â€ Wendt said. â€œI donâ€™t know what the exact reasons behind it are. Personally I donâ€™t see why Greek Life gets a privileged status when it comes to applying for funding, and I donâ€™t see why they couldnâ€™t just apply for funding like everyone else. I think they can apply individually for their events now. It would be just like if they were a normal student group.â€
Perkowski, who was identified by Wendt as the primary advocate against lump sum funding, discussed why he believed that student activity fees should not go to funding Greek Council.
â€œMany and most student governments in the state of Texas and in the United States do not allocate money to what are deemed selective student organizations,â€ Perkowski said. â€œThose are those that are defined as student organizations that have exclusive memberships such as Greek life and Greek Council. Theyâ€™re both selective because members can only be in Greek Council if their members of constituent fraternities and sororities, and those fraternities and sororities have different standards for how they pick and choose their members. It seemed to us that Greek Council didnâ€™t really fulfill the same general student body focus as the other USOs.â€
Allen aided in the organization of an emergency meeting held for members of the Greek Community and student body members on Tuesday, April 18. There he and members of Greek Council voiced their concerns and options for the future.
â€œSo it [was] kind of an open forum with Greek members across all organizations and actually some SGA reps,â€ Allen said. â€œWe [wanted to] get on the same page about next steps. We [wanted to] get a little more transparency into the SGA process, but we also [wanted] our members to be able to communicate just how important a lot of these [Greek Council] events have been to them personally.â€
No other USO is currently required to request funding on a case by case basis. Wendt described some of the potential budget cuts that SGA expects to make on such a system.
â€œOne of the events that probably wonâ€™t get approved is the [Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values, AFLV] conference where they send all twelve of their executive board members to a conference on the West Coast in a five star resort, which is really expensive,â€ Wendt said. â€œIt probably wonâ€™t be approved.â€
Greek Council Womenâ€™s Co-Chair Yvette PeÃ±a explained why Greek Council events, such as the AFLV, create leadership opportunities that ultimately contribute to the Trinity community as a whole.
â€œJeremy and I talked about things we learned at AFLV about recruiting and were able to give that information to groups like TUVAC and were able to help smaller groups like the Anthropology club,â€ PeÃ±a said. â€œSmaller clubs get exposed to these things that we learned while at our conference. I would have appreciated the opportunity to discuss this [in the budget proposal presentation]â€.
Members of SGA invite all students to its final meeting, where the spirit of Greek Councilâ€™s budget will either be challenged or left to stand.
Staff disclosure: Alex Perkowski is an opinion columnist at the Trinitonian.