UR’s top-ranked debate team was given $2,600 by the Students’ Association Appropriations Committee on Tuesday night after a long and contentious process. The team had depleted its budget for this year and without this additional funding the team would have been unable to compete for a national title.
“We are happy that we ended up working something out that will allow our team to finish strong and that will make SAAC happy with the allocation of funds,” senior and Debate Union President Amy Novak said.
Senior and Students’ Association Treasurer Malik Evans said that the final decision was a compromise. “We definitely came half way on this. We were nice to a group that didn’t budget well,” he said.
“They can make all the justifications they want, but the fact of the matter is that they mismanaged their money,” Evans continued. “We gave them a strong reprimand, but we’re not going to let the people on the team suffer.”
Debate was originally given a $21,000 budget for the 2001-2002 year by SAAC based on debate’s own estimates. Because there are more debaters this year and because the team spent money on summer camp, these funds ran out shortly after Winter Break.
This is the first time in the four years Evans has been a part of SAAC that he can remember an SA group running out of money.
In order to grant extra funding for the debate union, SAAC would have had to dip into either supplemental funds or a surplus account.
The supplemental account goes to funding groups that come into existence during the school year or to enrich programming. “The purpose of a supplemental is to add or enhance programming,” Evans said.
The surplus fund is made up of money from previous years that was appropriated to group but went unspent. An estimate in July 2000 placed total funds in the account at over $250,000, Director of Student Activities Rob Rouzer said.
Expenditures over the past two years probably have left the account much smaller, however. Over $80,000 has been integrated into the SA in the past two years. Also, in October, Senate voted to take $20,000 from the surplus to fund the newly formed class councils.
Rouser also said the university auditors recommend that the SA hold 10 percent ? $70,000 ? of its annual budget in surplus in case of emergency.
At Wednesday’s meeting, SAAC voted eight to three in favor of allocating $2,600 with one member abstaining. Debate had asked for $3,000 but the amount was reduced because SAAC questioned the number of teams that the UR debate team was taking to tournaments.
The debate team’s request for funding was first presented at a SAAC meeting Feb. 5 where they asked for $8,350.
SAAC refused their request by a vote of seven to five on the grounds that debate had misappropriated its budget and the debaters appealed the decision to the Students’ Association Senate on Monday.
After implementing suggestions from SAAC like team fundraising and collection of travel fees, the debate team presented the Senate a revised request for $5,050.
Monday’s meeting centered around the question of misappropriation of funds, the danger of setting a precedent of overruling SAAC decision and greater good of the entire student body.
Because of large expenditures for summer camp, Senate questioned whether the debate union’s predicament was caused by internal fund mismanagement.
Debaters said they believe that the summer programming is integral to their success as a team. “The summer program is an educational experience ? one of the best I’ve had at this school,” Business Manager Jessica Myers said.
Senate was concerned that by approving the debate union’s request, they would set a precedent that would send every group refused by SAAC to senate for money.
Senate was also concerned that giving funds to debate would go against the best good of the student body. “When we review any student group requesting additional funding, we have to weigh the value of that group’s activity versus the needs of the entire campus,” said senior off-campus senator and member of the SAAC committee Ashley Conner.
Senate voted down a proposal to release $3,000 to the debate union and referred the matter back for a final decision to SAAC.
Debaters were upset by this decision. “The money is there,” said senior debate team member Meng Wang. “Senate decided it wasn’t their job to decide to open the surplus account.”
The debate union was then invited to the SAAC meeting and were given $2,600 that ultimately came from the supplemental budget after Evans transferred $10,000 from the surplus.
This move came when debate agreed to raise more of their own funds.
Both sides were content with the compromise. “They proved that they are willing to work hard by going out to raise the rest of the money,” Evans said.
“SAAC made reasonable and helpful suggestions for our internal budgeting,” junior debater Christy Webster said.
The debate team plans to adjust their budget for increasing membership in the future, but wants to be sure they are also being responsible to other SA groups.
“If we overestimate, it would take away from other SA groups,” Myers said. “We would be more responsible to the campus if we underestimate and then count on supplemental funds if we need them.”
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