Senate debate checks committee’s power

One attribute of democracy is a solid system of checks and balances. This is something that the Student Government Association’s finance committee must bear in mind this month during Chartered Student Organization budgeting.

Each spring, SGA’s finance committee faces its most important task: a marathon of budgeting meetings with every CSO at Saint Louis University. Weeks of deliberation culminate in several grueling senate meetings that last until the wee hours, during which the spoils of SGA’s coffer are divided for the benefit of student groups.

The finance committee works long hours because its responsibilities are serious. It considers how much each CSO wants and then judges how much each group deserves. It is the committee’s duty to be firm and fair in its decision making, all year long.

This year, Purdue’s finance committee has proven to be fair, but far too firm.

Nobody’s denying the amount of work that goes into thoughtful and deliberate CSO budgeting. At more than one SGA meeting, however, UNews editors have witnessed finance committee members behaving thoughtlessly and recklessly when spot funding recommendations go before the Senate for debate.

At a Feb. 5 meeting, during which both KSLU and SLU TV petitioned for spot funding, a finance committee member scowled, waved his hands and mouthed words of disapproval as senators debated a committee recommendation. Other meetings have seen committee members slamming fists on tables and expressing heated opinions about feeling undermined during debate.

Rational defenses of well-laid plans are acceptable from a finance committee person. Intimidation tactics are not.

These committee members must learn to keep the same cool in debate that they keep behind the closed doors of budget meetings.

Though senators may take their time debating committee decisions, even veering away from original committee recommendations, its suggestions are just that-suggestions, not decrees.

Hopefully, CSO allocation meetings will be less turbulent.

Senate debate is the check that balances the finance committee’s otherwise clandestine operations.

There’s a reason that both candidates for the office of 2009-10 financial vice president ran on platforms of increased approachability and transparency. This year’s finance committee has been neither overly friendly nor overly transparent.

Though Perdue claims transparency in allowing this newspaper to publish spot funding allocations, students are still in the dark about the total amount SGA has to distribute.

Every SLU student contributes to the pot of money that these student politicos distribute through a mandatory student activity fee. Yet, only Perdue and a staff adviser know the total. It stands to reason that SLU students should know how much money is in the bank for their CSOs, even if that knowledge gives SGA less leverage.

The vital focus for the finance committee this budgeting season must be respectful conduct. CSOs are grassroots bastions of student life at SLU, and SGA exists to serve them. As such, the finance committee’s foremost duty is to treat these organizations with dignity, accepting the balance that comes with Senate debate.