Feb

18

Fun with Funds: Enter SGB

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Like many of you, Bwog was curious and excited upon learning that ABC (unlike last year) had released their 2007-2008 budget and student group allocations. But what of the Student Governing Board, (the ABC of political and religious groups, among others)? According to Jon Siegel, a chair of SGB, the SGB has been in talks with various groups for about a year in attempts to publicize their budgets. This year, SGB will be releasing their full budget and all of their allocations.

“The only reason we haven’t published ours yet is because a member of a student council asked us not to release ours for another week or so so that they would be able to release theirs without appearing to have been pressured into it by us,” Siegel said. 

Because SGB serves mostly religious and political student groups, clubs and events, the release of individual allocations to groups is a very sensitive and charged issue. Bwog will be publishing SGB’s budget as it is released, check back for updates.  

– JNW

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31 Comments

  1. anonymous

    Aww, does this mean the SGB will have to stop giving unwarranted preference to their favorite religious & political groups?

  2. ...  

    Or does it mean that they will have to stop their practice of giving ungodly amounts of money to groups with three members?

  3. ...  

    or does it mean anonymous commentators won't be able to make totally unfounded accusations?

  4. yeah  

    let's leave the unfounded accusations to jon siegel!

  5. haha  

    Ugh, not everything SGB does is " a very sensitive and charged issue"

  6. Yeah  

    Dan Okin, formerly ABC treasurer, "elected" ESC president, didn't seem at all sketchy when the SGB's budget was cut and the ABC's raised during his tenure. But I guess SGB - champions of free speech and democratic student government - must be the corrupt ones.

    • Actually...

      When Dan was President, he presided over SGB's current funding increase. Incoming Presidents tend to have very little sway in discussions because they were not privy to previous years.

      Also, he was ABC Treasurer for like... 1 month?

      • yeah

        to be fair to dan, he actually was responsible for ABC's budget increase because he put together that budget. so, yeah, he didn't care when abc's budget jumped really high because HE was advocating for abc. don't hold someone accountable for the actions of the other student government members at the time!

        • Ehh  

          That increase came on the back of a 20% cut, so I'm afraid Dan is accountable, especially since he was not democratically elected, and was obviously a powerful lobby for the increase of one governing board at the expense of another. To be honest, it's more a fault of 2 bad systems: one that allows non-democratically elected leaders, and another that allows these kinds of conflicts of interest.

          • I was...

            speaking in reference to when dan was ABC treasurer and, in fact, put together the budget that got ABC a ton of money. when he was on student council, abc took a hit and so did other groups...

  7. FYI  

    SGB is Political, Activist, Religious & Humanitarian groups.

  8. umm  

    when was dan okin abc treasurer? did i blink and miss that?

  9. who cares  

    abc groups are more fun anyway! like...the blue and white!

  10. copy editor

    Editrix: please correct the run-on sentence that ends this sorry excuse for a bwog-post.

    hugs and kisses,
    the copy guy

  11. actually  

    Dan Okin and seven other student council members was involved in giving SGB the funding increase it saw this year. Rubber-stamping absurdly high funding requests from SGB is not in the interest of the student body, the councils, or the school; nor is it even remotely responsible.

  12. Democrat  

    Geez, don't you people pay attention in class? All student government positions that are internally elected follow democratic elections. You have to be democratically elected to a representative position before you can win an internal election.

    Moreover, since when is republican government a bad system? Since when is having representatives elected to decide upon funding and manage governing boards on their own free time, for scant personal reward, a bad thing? Would you rather do it yourself?

  13. Jon Siegel...

    should learn how to not say something until he has checked his facts. The councils' have had their allocations up online for awhile at http://facu.columbia.edu/

    Sigh, this talk about democratically elected people versus undemocratically elected people is depressing from individuals who go to CU. The fact that someone was elected by publicly elected individuals does not make them an illegitimate representation of their constituency. When someone like Dan (or Liz, or Tom, or Chris, or Vijay, or JaMel, etc etc) is elected by publicly elected representatives, the public is speaking through their elected representatives. This is exactly what happens in a Parliamentary system (such as employed by Britain, Australia, and the US Congress in the election of the Majority/Minority leaders + the Speaker of the House).

    On many levels, the republican system is better because it allows those who routinely participate in government to select the individual who will best lead THEM in their quest to make things better for their constituency. Regardless of political theory, it is pretty sad that everyone bashes on Dan for a system that was in place before he was elected AND which he tried to change, much to his discredit because it is, in my opinion, a better system.

    Finally, the funding process at Columbia is intricate and requires navigating a lot of things. I think #14 had it right when they said that rubber-stamping absurdly high funding requests is NOT in the interest of the student body. The student councils are financially constrained just like everyone else. Actually, average governing board allocations have increased year over year faster than student council budgets, placing even greater strain on the councils in their allocation of money. On top of that, the councils had to step in and save WKCR this year from financial crisis, so even MORE money was spent that they didn't have. It is a very tightly balanced system which is not so easily resolved by just saying SGB should get more money versus ABC.

    No one is saying the system is perfect, but to blame the shortcomings of a system on one person is absurd. As was the length of this post.

    • Bollocks  

      The councils have published the allocations they gave to governing boards, which governing boards have made public anyway. Why are the councils hiding their expenses? And while your point about Republicanism is valid, what you're essentially saying is that the Councils (and ABC) should elect their heads because the student-body is under-qualified to do so, which is precisely the attitude that the Administration takes with us, and makes our campus stink.

      • Actually

        I am not saying that the student body is under-qualified to elect their heads. I am more saying that the members of the student body do not work within the Administration, nor do they work on the council, and thus the choice of who would lead best is potentially better made by publicly elected members of the council.

        Both systems (democracy and republicanism) have their flaws, but to assume that I view the student body to be unqualified to make the decision is placing a judgment on my statement. Republicanism does not imply what you are saying and, honestly, I am a bit surprised you would make such a weak argument when we currently live in a republican system.

        And to why the councils are hiding their expenses, one could only venture a guess, but mine would be such:

        Exposing their own personal budget (from which anyone could calculate the total amount of money given to student activities, somewhere around $1M annually) could potentially turn governing boards into money lobbying organizations and not management organizations. In their current form, governing boards are meant to help student groups adequately manage the money given to them and help groups grow to their full potential. Sometimes that doesn't require money, sometimes it does, but it is the governing board's job to know their groups intimately enough to tell the councils that. When budgets become public, governing boards can certainly hold the councils accountable for their actions - something good that should be done. However, it can also cause bickering between the governing boards, leading to diverted attention away from the groups. I think this argument more plays toward the reason to keep the individual allocations of the governing boards private, instead of the councils own allocations, however it is not my decision. Also, this argument is weak, even in an attempt to make one. But, I believe the councils' budgets should be public, so maybe that is why I am having a hard time.

      • Also

        It takes a lot of guts to make an argument against republicanism when, if this country abided by true republicanism, we would have gotten rid of Bush years ago and been much better off.

        • But  

          as elected representatives allegedly serving the student body, councils have a duty and an obligation to make their finances public. This money is coming straight out of students' pockets.

          The councils should be able to justify their spending; and the councils need not worry about "bickering" between governing boards, since all governing boards know each other's allocations anyway. Why not just make everything public? In a pure democracy, that would just encourage more candidates to run for council/board positions and improve the quality of decision-making at every level.

          Also, as to the argument against republicanism, the SGB is a fully-democratic grass-roots organization, and has been able to negotiate with the administration just as effectively as the "super-qualified" ABC heads (see: Letter of Speaker Intent)

          • I believe

            that I said the councils' budgets should be public. I was only venturing a guess as to why they weren't.

            SGB has done a wonderful job advocating for the improvement of its groups and the environment within which they exist. That being said, the way SGB is elected is no different from the way ABC is elected, so your point is moot.

            And the pseudo-Republican aristocracy you mention exists in all government - it is why the random individual who has had no experience would never be able to run for President. I cannot imagine anyone who would want someone to be President of the US without that person having any experience in government and I don't see why student council, albeit less important and certainly less influential, should be any different.

          • Nope  

            The ABC's exec board (Treasurer, President, etc) are elected internally, whereas every SGB board member is elected democratically, so I'm afraid your facts are wrong.

    • Jon Siegel  

      I believe you're incorrect. The website you link to does not have the council allocations, it has the governing board allocations.

      With the exception of the always admirable SGA, I don't thnk any of the councils have publicized their budgets.

      • on council budgets  

        The ESC has made its budget public; it just hasn't been put up on its website because there have been a lot of other issues on campus that have required more attention since September.

  14. PS:  

    What we've been calling republicanism is more of a pseudo-Republican aristocracy, where those with any real power are elected internally and junior positions are elected democratically. This would be the case with the ABC and ESC, but now with CCSC.

  15. Anon

    ABC has been posting its budgets online for the last several years...

  16. guy who knows things

    this whole ABC vs. SGB debate is total bullshit.
    Yes, ABC has different rules and structure than SGB. But that is OK. Why? Because ABC groups are different and have different priorities. As a former SGB board member, every time we met with administrators jointly, ABC kids would go on and on about "space space space." Why? Because their groups need lots of space! Our groups rarely complained about space (and until the last 18 months or so, rarely about money) but rather complained more about bureaucracy and infringement on free speech. Different groups, different needs. Different needs, different styles of governance. That's why they are different boards. The SGB should openly support on principle ABC's right to self-government under the constitution agreed to by all of ABC's groups.

    As for the Councils not releasing their spending, hiding as much as their total budget at this point is pretty hypocritical. Why should the councils be shielded from public scrutiny when the governing boards are not? The governing boards are already money-lobbying organizations. The SGB was started as a student-caucus of groups, and one thing that caucus lobbies for is funding. If the councils want to talk big on funding, lets see how much money goes to Glass House Rocks, Lerner Pub, free t-shirts, and council retreats.

    Bottom-line: Jonathan needs to calm the hell down and quash this ABC-beef. He's a great bulldog when you're in a fight, but not much of a diplomat.

    • I don't

      think that anyone disagrees that the councils should open their budget. It is not productive to keep these budgets closed.

      Your point is very well taken on ABC vs. SGB. If the groups (read: ABC's constituency) demand a different system, which they are allowed to do, then the board will comply. At this point, that isn't in their interests and thus isn't something requested.

      I do wish, however, that Jonathan would calm down because the infighting he is stirring by trying to place SGB above ABC is absurd. No one is above the other, historically or not. While SGB may have existed before ABC, it does not legitimize SGB over ABC in any way, shape or form. All governing boards have specific purposes and constituencies which they target - ABC happens to target things that are not covered in SGB. So what? Fact of the matter is that SGB is not any less important than ABC. If anything, one could make an argument that SGB is receiving more attention than it has in the past because it had a 13.2% increase in its budget versus ABC's 9.4% increase.

      Either way, the bickering is unproductive and really only furthers the image of SGB as a bunch of people who whine until they get what they want. Just do your job well and you will be rewarded. No doubt in my mind.

  17. councils  

    It would be really interesting to see the entire budgets of the councils. I sat on my class council for one year and was amazed by the money that could get thrown around at free towels, gratuitous study breaks and the like. Meanwhile the student group of which I'm a treasurer (hint: one of the largest cultural groups on campus) struggles to have enough money to have snacks at our events.

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