SGA to recover funds from inactive organizations

Kevin Kelly, vice president of legal and governmental affairs for the Student Government Association (SGA), is leading an effort to remove the recognition status of and funding for inactive student organizations at the College this year.

Kelly said he will assign a caseworker to each organization to evaluate their level of activity and revise the constitutional review process “to make it more difficult for organizations that are not committed to contributing to the campus community to gain approval.”

For clubs to maintain active status they must host programs beneficial to the campus community relevant to their stated mission and maintain a membership base consistent with the most recent membership list provided to the office of Campus Activities.

If clubs don’t meet those criteria, SGA will turn them over to Tim Asher, associate director of Campus Activities. Student Activities Administration will be better able to handle the revocation of a club’s charter, Kelly said.

Kelly is working with members of the Student Finance Board (SFB) to revise the constitutional review process for clubs.

“In the past, the (recognition) process has been guided by a ‘rubber stamping’ philosophy that requires little more than the completion of several forms and an appearance before the Constitutional Review committee,” he said. “I don’t think SGA has ever turned down an organization.”

A survey of articles from The Signal on SGA from the Fall 2002 semester to present revealed no case of SGA ever denying recognition to a student organization.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Kelly said, “Our goal is not to prevent new clubs with unique purposes from emerging. With this more stringent approach we are seeking to reduce the number of redundant organizations.”

SGA members in Kelly’s position have tried to address the problem in past years.

On Jan. 29, 2003, Marco Zelaya, then vice president of legal and governmental affairs, guided the passing of a resolution that removed the recognition status of 14 inactive student organizations.

He later presented to members of SGA a list of 41 organizations that were inactive as of Oct. 29, 2003. There was no noted follow-up action.

Since then some of those clubs have reactivated, such as Mixed Signals and College Democrats, but “a fair number are still inactive,” Kelly said. He estimates the number to still be around 41.

An exact figure will be determined via the investigations this year.

On March 31, 2004, Zelaya proposed a bill to amend SGA bylaws to give Campus Activities the task of assessing whether organizations met student needs and when an organization would lose recognition status. It failed 12-19-16.

Asher spoke with Zelaya about the bill. “I told him it shouldn’t (pass),” Asher said. “Things like that should be up to the students.”

“I don’t think people understand the situation,” Daria Silvestro, alternate student trustee, said.

“It doesn’t come up a lot. It’s one of those things that you don’t see until you look into it.” It’s primarily a concern of the “financially conscious” members of SGA, she said.

Once officially recognized, clubs become eligible for SFB funding.

“You can’t be unregistered and spend SFB money – that doesn’t happen,” Asher, also the faculty advisor to SFB, said.

However, both Julia Pratt, SFB executive director, and Asher said that some clubs submit budget requests in March and then become inactive over the summer and remain inactive into the school year. In these cases, the clubs’ base budget money for expenses such as chapter dues, publicity and office supplies gets temporarily tied up.

Pratt said that this is not a major problem. “If it becomes apparent that clubs have not spent any of their money, SFB will take back a percentage and place it in the General Appropriations Line,” where it is then available to other student groups, she said.

Pratt estimated that SFB takes back no more than $1,000 each year from clubs that don’t spend their funds or have fallen apart.

Ravi Kaneriya, SFB representative at large, estimated that there are over a dozen recognized clubs with base budgets that presently are not doing enough appropriate programs to deserve them.

He would not name specific clubs, but added that some of them are “not inactive, but they’re really not contributing that much,” he said.

At least one of those organizations has over $100 in its base budget, he said. “One hundred, 200 dollars – it’s not a big deal, but when you’re not doing anything, it’s just a waste.”

“If (Kelly) finds that clubs don’t meet his criteria and their constitutions are revoked, they will no longer be eligible for SFB funding and SFB will have to take back any money that was allocated them,” Pratt said.

“There are a couple hundred clubs,” Silvestro said. “To sort through all of them and keep track of what they’re doing is a daunting task, but I think Kevin (Kelly) is up for it.”