Due to various inquiries and allegations recently brought to my attention regarding the Eastman Student Association, I felt it my duty, as president, to use this space to inform students about how the SA works. For reasons of relaying direct information and for your reading enjoyment, I have decided to compose this in a question and answer format. The characters shall be “Studious,” an Eastman student who is uninformed about the SA and does not know how to find out about it, and “Smartacus,” a typical member of the SA council.

Studious: So what is the Eastman SA?

Smartacus: The SA is the student association of the Eastman School of Music. It is comprised of all undergraduate music majors at Eastman. SA Council members are elected officials that serve as voting members at our meetings. Each organization that the SA recognizes has a representative, as does every class. These representatives attend every meeting and are elected by the student body in the spring of the prior year. Currently, there is no set date for these elections, although they are always announced at least a week in advance.

St: When are these meetings? May I go?

Sm: We meet every Thursday at 9:30 p.m. in the Student Living Center Director’s Dining Room. All students are welcome to come, listen and participate.

St: What kind of stuff do you do? Why do we need the SA?

Sm: The main purpose is to act as the “middle man” between students and the administration. The SA is a forum to express views and ideas regarding all aspects of student life. According to the constitution, the SA supports student activities, enhances social living, promotes student welfare and protects student rights. For example, the SA sponsored last semester’s Halloween dance and the Winter Ball, in addition to the Holiday Sing.

St: Well, have you guys even accomplished anything?

Sm: Yes. Aside from organizing popular activities such as bowling, dances and trips, the SA helps support many other student organizations — like the fraternities, Pride Network and Music Educators National Conference.

The new posture chairs in rehearsal room 120 are the result of an SA effort. We are currently working on many improvements and issues. To name a few, the SA is currently working to establish a recycling program in both the school and the dorms and improve school hours and safety. We’ve established a committee to look at our budget and we’re trying to establish a designated SA office. You may contact our secretary, Julia Kemp, to look at minutes from past meetings.

St: Well, what if I think you guys aren’t doing enough? I want more.

Sm: The best thing for you to do is lead through example. Don’t just complain about it, voice your thoughts or ask any member of the council to help you. If it’s something the council agrees with then it just might happen. If you have an idea for an activity, then maybe you or somebody else wants to help organize it. The possibilities are endless!

St: I heard that you guys approve every issue that is brought up at meetings.

Sm: We run our meetings according to “Robert’s Rules of Order,” a common method of parliamentary procedure, which allows us to amend issues and compromise. Thus, most items brought up for discussion are passed. The SA does not have a quota for unanimous approval and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

St: So how do I propose an idea?

Sm: Just send an e-mail to our vice president, Laura Puzio, at least two days before Thursday so she can put you on the agenda for that week’s meeting. Then, just show up and say your piece.

St: Okay, that sounds great, but what about the budget crisis? Are you guys going to be charging us more money?

Sm: First of all, no one is being charged more money. In a nutshell, the SA budget comes from the Student Activities Fee that every student pays. The current rate at Eastman is $40 per semester. This is small compared to other schools, including the UR’s River Campus. The SA uses this money to subsidize activities planned by both the SA and other student organizations — which are open to all Eastman students.

This money is also used by the yearbook. Note that the yearbook and many other events have been fully subsidized in past years, which accounts for most of the money we get from the activity fee. Previously, the SA had a budget surplus due to some years of minimal spending, and last year’s SA council was told they should spend the money. Last spring’s trip to Toronto and last fall’s Winter Ball were both funded by this money.

The SA money comes from a ledger system, which supports both UR and Eastman, into which money continually gets added. The amount added depends upon both the different payment plans that students are on and also on whether or not students have dropped out or transfer to the UR.

Unfortunately, due to some miscommunication over the past few years, there was a slight deficit which has been remedied. Needless to say, some rebudgeting was necessary, which is a normal occurrence in the lifetime of any organization. It’s hardly what I would call a crisis.

Now the SA can look into options about potentially increasing our funding, but it’s going to take some time and debate.

The deficit was no single person’s fault and it’s been ameliorated — in fact, the budget is now pretty much in order. This is the first year that the SA has a full-time advisor, Dean Sigrid Long and she helps the SA immensely.

Previously, the SA renewed its membership each year and didn’t have a steady support structure from year to year.

Last year’s officers did a great job of amending a lot of SA procedures, especially those dealing with budget and the constitution, and we are still working things out as we go along. We have a supportive membership of really active and caring students and that goes a long way.

For more info on the budget situation, I would advise you to talk to SA Treasurer Lisa Dixon. Keep in mind that classes and organizations have pretty much abandoned fundraising efforts in recent years and relied solely on the SA funds.

St: Well that all makes sense, but why are the SA elections and events never publicized?

Sm: Hmm, I guess if you don’t check your school e-mail, or Student Living Center voicemail or read signs posted on the boards in the school and the residence hall then you might not hear about the SA related events. You can even talk to your SA representative. We are also currently working on developing a Web site.

St: Thanks so much, but what if I think of more questions later on?

Sm: Contact anyone on the SA — they’re the really active people, like the ones that periodically sit in the main hall, ask around you’ll find them. Otherwise feel free to contact the president, Jeff Meyer, with all of your questions and concerns.

Okay, have a good semester and I’ll see you at the next SA meeting.

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