ASUC Senate Budget Error Sparks Conflict

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ASUC Senate Funding Issues

J.D. Morris talks about the funding issues with the ASUC Senate.

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After mistakenly allocating $15,000 to the same program twice, the student government has struggled to determine the appropriate course of action.

Last year during the ASUC Senate's annual spring budgeting process, then Academic Affairs Vice President-elect Viola Tang ensured that her office received $15,000 for a campus grant competition program. But despite this, the senate also allocated another $15,000 at the end of last semester for the same program, unaware that Tang's office already had the money.

"Senate made a mistake in not knowing its budget," Tang said at Monday's meeting of the senate's Standing Committee on Finance.

The subsequent question of how to address this funding surplus has been a source of debate, as Tang faces continued opposition to her attempts to reallocate the funding.

Tang intended to use the funds for the Bears Breaking Boundaries program - a grant competition which had been significantly scaled back that year.

In her current position, Tang said her office reached out to several campus officials last semester and received either no response or was led to believe the program would not be happening this year, so she had intended to use the funds in other ways.

However, the program is in fact taking place.

Now titled "Big Ideas" and operated through the Blum Center for Developing Economies, the program was launched in mid-November, according to Phillip Denny, chief administrative officer for the center. The program consists of 16 competitions for grants, each of which Denny said is sponsored by a different organization - one being the ASUC - and aimed at solving "some of the world's most pressing problems" in a collaborative way.

Student Action Senator Farrah Moos said she was contacted directly at the end of last semester by officials from the center associated with the program and immediately drafted a bill with the help of the rest of the senate so that funds could be allocated for the competition in time for the new semester.

"(Tang) didn't get in contact with the right people," Moos said. "I was just kind of thrown into this."

Tang said she was not aware that the senate had allocated the extra funds until after Moos' bill was passed and Moos contacted her office while assembling the committee to judge applications to the senate's competition.

In order to address the extra $15,000, Tang authored a bill requesting that the funds be used to replenish the grants her office manage, but some senators on the finance committee did not approve of her methods.

"A lot of us felt it was inappropriate," said Student Action Senator Jimmy Zhang in an interview prior to the bill's discussion in committee last week.

Zhang said he was concerned that Tang did not provide a detailed breakdown of how the funds would be used within each grant and by the fact that she requested replenishment of the Arts and Creativity Fund, which is supposed to be sustained through fundraising from Tang's office.

"To submit it without even detailing why she needs the money goes against the theme of transparency the senate has been trying to establish this semester," Zhang said.

When the first draft of Tang's bill came before the financial committee, it was killed on the request that the grants be replenished through more traditional channels. Tang's deputy submitted two bills the following week to do just that. However, Tang also brought an amended version of her bill before the committee on Monday, this time requesting that some of the extra moneys be used for a video project her office is running to support the renovation of Moffitt Library.

The finance committee has since tabled the amended version of Tang's bill pending more detailed information from Tang at its next meeting.

"On (the senate's) own mistake, we have this extra $15,000," Tang said. "I would assume if they're comfortable making such a huge allocation ... they're feeling pretty comfortable about the state of the contingency fund."


J.D. Morris is the lead student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

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