Criticism from Within

After a deadlock vote on Model UN’s $6,000 budget request, Student Commission continues debate on how to allocate their funds with criticism coming from within.

By Allison Tinsey

Donning suits and ties, Seniors Rami Sherman and Mehmet Kologlu stood in front of Student Commission and over twenty other members of the campus community to present their budget request for Model United Nations (MUN) to attend a conference at the University of Chicago in April.

Their PowerPoint presentation laid out what MUN does as a student organization, how attending conferences is an essential part of being in MUN, and how attending this conference and future conferences could leverage Kalamazoo College’s ability to host a MUN conference of their own in the next few years.

The original budget request from MUN calls for $7,201, which includes registration, accommodation, and travel expenses, but at Monday’s Student Commission meeting, only $6,000 was asked for by MUN. It was expressed that the other $1,201 would come from the Provost Travel Fund and fundraising.

The $6,000 would also keep MUN within the ten percent limit that student organizations are allowed to request as outlined in StuComm’s by-laws. The ‘ten percent limit’ refers to the total amount of money student organizations are allowed to request from StuComm within a fiscal year. Ten percent of the entire StuComm budget from the beginning of the fiscal year is just over $11,000.

MUN had previously requested and received $5,000 from Student Commission for the conference they attended in Montreal and were well within their right to request $6,000 from the Commission.

After MUN’s presentation, they fielded questions and the motion on the table was discussed for approximately 45 minutes. The Commission held a vote to fund the request in full. The Commission was deadlocked: 11 yes, 11 no, and 1 abstention. In the event of a tie, the President must vote. Model United Nations was denied their request when President Darrin Camilleri broke the tie voting no, bringing the vote totals to 11 yes, 12 no, and 1 abstention.

The discussion that took place over the course of the meeting focused primarily on the lack of nuance in the financial policy by-laws. But this is not the first time that these discussions have taken place.

According to Senior Commissioner Anna Asbury, much of her time on the Commission has been spent debating budget requests and the rules that dictate how money is allocated.

“Every winter the same conversation happens. This conversation revolves around funding and what to do about our Spring Quarter budget,” she said.

The conversation Asbury refers to happened again at Monday’s meeting. The question was raised about the amount of money that is left to fund large, expensive events that traditionally happen in the spring, including Crystal Ball, the Cultural Awareness Troupe (CAT), and Frelon. Would StuComm have enough money to fund these events – events that have not turned in their budget requests yet – and still be able to fund the MUN conference?

Student Commission operates on a rolling budget. This is outlined in Article V, Section 3, B. a. of the by-laws. While the by-laws also state that StuComm is to be financially responsible, they generally allocate funds throughout the year on a first come, first served basis if the request meets all requirements. The “first come, first served” language is not in the by-laws, but Secretary of Finance Kelly Ohlrich described the allocation process as such.

“We need to have a better system in place that codifies and explains exactly what Student Commission thinks in regards to budgeting for Spring Quarter. There needs to be a clear cut way of how we will deal with Spring Quarter budgeting, so that this conversation does not continue to happen year after year, and so that student organizations can actually know what to expect,” stated Asbury.

“My primary concern is with consistency in the budgeting process,” said Rasheed Hammouda in a message to the Commission after Monday’s meeting.

He added, “I have seen StuComm rationalize their rejection of a budget primarily on a technical or procedural concern, [despite] that technicality being absent in the by-laws. On the flip side, I have seen StuComm rationalize their approval of budgets in a manner that sought to circumvent or mitigate a perceived technical concern that was, in fact, absent from the by-laws.” Hammouda is a Student Commission Fellow who services on the Financial Policies Committee (FPC).

Over the course of his time serving as a Fellow, Hammouda has repeatedly brought up the issue of inconsistency in the budgeting process. He describes his roll as a line judge providing an outside perspective when discussions on the Commission stray toward groupthink. Hammouda points out that there is no nuanced “anticipation clause” within the by-laws that would prevent StuComm from funding large requests that precede those of the spring.

“StuComm is saying that [the anticipated] budgets are all, essentially, preapproved. Beyond this being…unfair, it creates a moral hazard where these ‘pre-favored’ clubs lack the incentive to be as rigorous, thorough, and advanced with their budgeting requests,” he said.

Camilleri fears putting too much nuanced language into the by-laws, stating, “The fact that we have these discussions is based on the idea that we will be looking at each issue individually and that we will be considering its merits individually and also in the broader context of what this budget will mean for the student body.”

Currently, FPC members Amanda Johnson, Rian Brown, and Graham Wojtas are drafting nuanced by-law language to clarify StuComm’s position on the allocation of funds for food. Camilleri said that the draft will be reviewed within the week.

The other point of contention and the ultimate deciding factor for Camilleri was how much money would be spent for the amount of people attending. The requested $6,000 included nearly $4,000 in accommodations alone for 24 people.

“I’m not opposed to the idea of them going to that conference, I’m just opposed to spending that much money on another conference,” said Camilleri.

Model United Nations is allowed to edit their request and resubmit it to StuComm. In the same meeting, Student Commission approved over $6,000 between multiple student organizations to fund Afro Fiesta Desi Soul, taking place a week from Saturday.

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