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Criminal Justice Club protests SGA president’s funding veto

On Friday, Oct. 4, the Criminal Justice Club protested President Lee Cohen’s decision to veto their funding request, originally approved by the senate. Preface Photo/SARAH WARD

On Friday, Oct. 4, the Criminal Justice Club protested President Lee Cohen’s decision to veto their funding request, originally approved by the senate. Preface Photo/SARAH WARD

By SARAH DUIS
Editor-in-Chief

Members of the Criminal Justice Club arrived at Friday’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting carrying handmade signs condemning President Lee Cohen.

The reason behind their anger? A vetoed funding request.

The club first presented a $425 funding request at an SGA meeting on Sept. 20, which would be used by eight club members to attend a criminal justice conference in Chicago.

The request was tabled, so the club presented it again on Sept. 27 and the majority of the senate approved it.

A week later, Christina Smith, Criminal Justice Club president, heard from Matthew Kavanagh, SGA vice president, that the SGA president decided to veto funding.

“I’ve yet to hear an official explanation,” Smith said.

Smith led members of the Criminal Justice Club to the SGA meeting where they sat in the back of the room silently holding handmade protest signs.

The club was eventually given a chance to address the room.

Smith took the floor and spent several minutes chastising Cohen for his decision to veto their request, and for failing to let her know about his decision.

Criminal Justice Club President Christina Smith addresses the SGA with club members and advisers supporting her in the back.

Criminal Justice Club President Christina Smith addresses the SGA with club members and advisers supporting her in the back.

“It’s really disconcerting that part of your statement of purpose is to represent the interest of the students and protect student life,” Smith said to Cohen, “when it doesn’t seem like that’s happening at all by your choosing to veto our request after the majority of the senate approved it last time.”

Smith argued that there is no law or rule that bars students from seeking funding for off-campus events. She referenced the SGA’s constitution, which states that the government’s purpose is “to encourage and create opportunities for student involvement on the Indiana University South Bend campus and in the surrounding community.”

Smith added, “Last time I checked, Chicago is in the surrounding area.”

She went on to say that should found it “extremely unprofessional and disrespectful” that Cohen didn’t personally notify her of his veto decision.

“Just because you have ‘President’ in front of your name doesn’t mean you get to walk all over me, and everyone else, and doesn’t mean you get to make an example of our association by punishing all of our students that want to go to the conference,” Smith said.

Cohen defended his decision.

SGA President Lee Cohen (center) listens to the club’s reasoning for the protest.

SGA President Lee Cohen (center) listens to the club’s reasoning for the protest.

“I do not see sending students two hours away to a different state for a conference as proper use of the Student Activity Fee,” Cohen said. “I apologize, I’m sorry, but that’s my perspective on it and that’s the perspective that I ran on and that I was voted into office on.”

Cohen also defended his decision to veto the senate’s majority vote, a power he is granted in the SGA constitution.

According to Section 4, Sub-Section 1, of the constitution, the president “shall have the power to sign or veto (with written objections) all Student Senate approved motions and return appropriate documentation to the Vice President within two calendar weeks of Senate approval. If legislation goes unsigned within two weeks of Senate approval, the piece of legislation shall take effect.”

The constitution does not require that the president directly contact club members if they ultimately decide to veto their funding request. Cohen submitted his official veto statement to the senate on Tuesday, Oct. 1, four days after the initial decision by the senate to approve the funding request.

Cohen said his decision to veto the request came down to his belief that SGA funds should not be used to pay for off-campus activities.

“My fraternity, we have conferences that we go to in Indianapolis,” Cohen said during the meeting. “And I have a lot of students and a lot of members of the fraternity who are not particularly wealthy who will be up at 4 a.m. and drive themselves down and pay for their whole admissions fees, and if they came here to ask to pay for it with student activity money, I would say no. So I’m really upholding a principle and it’s nothing against you,” Cohen told the club members in attendance.

The veto was ultimately upheld after the senate did not reach a three-fourths vote to override it, as required by the constitution.

According to Section 4, Sub-Section 5, of the constitution, the student senate “shall have the power to override the President’s veto with a three-fourths vote of the entire Student Senate.”

“I think it’s disappointing that the senate didn’t uphold their original approval of our funding request,” Smith said after the decision was made. “And I think it’s interesting that in a week’s time, some amount of new information would persuade them to change their mind. It’s unfortunate.”

Cohen’s official veto statement gives detailed reasoning for his decision:

“I ran on the promise to stop funding to off-campus events—primarily conferences—with Student Activity fee money,” the statement reads. “Thus I do not now, and will not in the future, support the funding of off-campus events.”

Later in the statement, Cohen says he believes the SGA must be consistent in its rubric for funding events.

“The events we decide to fund will set a precedent for future expectations, and, if we are inconsistent, we will send mixed signals to those who are considering applying for SGA funding and may even incite bitterness through the appearance of favoritism for certain organizations and causes,” the statement reads. “Thus, I will continue the precedent set early on this year with the History Club of not funding off-campus events.”

Cohen said he plans to hold a campus survey in the near future to see how students feel about the use of the Student Activity Fee.

What are your thoughts?

Veto #2

Student Government Association President Lee Cohen’s official veto statement.

9 replies »

  1. ‘Frat conferences’ are not meet-ups with other fraternity members to ‘pat each other on the back’. They are usually leadership conferences where members can learn the skills and techniques to become better leaders. Topics that are usually discussed are conflict resolution, social excellence, volunteering for you community, etc. Perhaps before you assume that ‘frat conferences’ are exactly what you see in the movies, you should do some research. Fraternities and sororities are multi-million dollar NON PROFIT organizations that work toward the betterment of their members through educational programming and service learning opportunities. The vast majority are primarily concerned with helping their members become not only better leaders, but also better people.
    I’m sure the members of the criminal justice club would be unhappy if I sat here and rattled off some stereotypical comments about their interests, and when you do that to fraternity and sorority members, it rings just as untrue. Additionally, the fraternity and sororities at IUSB don’t ask SGA for money because they are able to work hard and fundraise for funds to send members to conferences themselves. Had the criminal justice club thought about doing that? I’m not sure, but at least I can say the fraternity and sororities are able to sustain on campus and create more student life than ever before without using school money.

  2. I think that, as long as an event off-campus is educational, there is no reason not to fund it. I also believe comparing a fraternity to a student organization that is academically based is both ridiculous and insulting. In the case of the Criminal Justice Club, the conference would better the students going in their field of study. What does a frat conference consist of other than members of the same frat more or less hanging out. My understanding is that a frat conference is nothing more than a social gathering, and has NOTHING to do with academics. If a conference, or anything else for that matter (for example a few years ago there was a trip to see “BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life” at the Museum of Science and Industry via the biology club if I’m not mistaken) is academically based and furthers a students understanding of a subject (is educational), then I’m all for MY money paying for that. i would NOT be ok with my money going towards frat boys meeting up to pat each other on the back and telling lewd and off-color jokes. I would rather my student funds be put towards education than to bring a washed up comedian to campus.

  3. This sounds like the Criminal Justice Club is a bunch of hurt little kindergartners having a tantrum over the fact that they had a toy taken from them. The funny part, however, is that the “toy” was never theirs… Nor did they ever have it… Nor did they ever deserve it… An obvious precedent was set with the platform the president ran on, and it was supported with his later decisions when groups were denied similar funding. The only difference is that none of the other groups had the false sense of superiority that apparently the Criminal Justice Club has (for no fathomable reason). It boils down to the immaturity of the Criminal Justice Club as compared to other IUSB clubs; they couldn’t get their way, so they are going to pout and make a scene. I don’t see a difference between the CJC and any other four year old.

  4. I think readers should keep in mind that any funding requests are a reimbursement to club accounts. This means that if a club can not go to anything they desire to attend it is by no means due to a senate response “yes” or “no” to a funding request (as the funds are not available until the events or funded items until a receipt is presented). Saying no to a funding request is a senate decision, and the club has every right to protest that decision, or a veto when it gets to that point, but Lee upheld what he promised when campaigning and simply ensured we stay consistent in funding decisions for off campus events. It is likely that the club did not help their cause by using comments Lee made to attack him because 9 of the current senators (including myself) helped campaign with Lee last spring. It’s good to evaluate your audience before coming into a meeting to protest. I’ll throw in that I voted yes, but I support the no decision 100%.

  5. I’m a non-traditional student. There are absolutly no activities here on campus for me to attend (I’m 59). I’m getting ripped off, my activity “fee” is thieft as far as I am concerned. Now, about your Tea Party president. . .who is really behind him? Who does he really represent? It looks to me like this invisible entity is possibly someone who wants to use this activity fee for some vested interest here on campus.

    • I have to agree with Jerry. I don’t go to ANY events on campus, as they are unappealing. I would much rather be able to have MY money go towards things like education than half the lame things SGA funds like a has-been comedian, or anything that happens during spirit week or welcome week. here is a radical idea, sell tickets to events, so we don’t have to pay for things like so the aprx. 8,000 students (8,073 official headcount) aren’t paying for 2-4% of students (around 200-400) going to these events, and allow the remaining 7000+ students keep their money. Our money is taken from us by default, and i agree that the LARGE majority are getting ripped off. IF my money is going to be taken and used by the university via student activity fees, i want it to go towards helping students be better people and better learners.

      I do have to also agree with Jerry on the concept of “who is really behind him”? If I am not mistaken, SGA’s appointed Faculty Advisor is Scott Strittmatter, whom replaced Sam Centellas. How much of what is being done by the president/SGA is influenced by this man? Has anyone else noticed since Mr. Centellas left and Mr. Strittmatter took over that a great deal of Student Activity Funds seem to be going towards “fun” and not helping our education or community? or is that just me? on the flipside, one could as is it really Mr. Strittmatter, or is that just a potential scapegoat for the negative direction that SGA is going. We must keep in mind that at the same time Mr. Strittmatter took over Mr. Centellas position, we also lost a few very key individuals within SGA such as Mr. Myles Robertson and Mr. Ian Spink as well as others; whom, to my knowledge, were far more interested in the bettering of the campus, the bettering of the students as people, and the bettering of our local community and perhaps even society as a whole. I feel in the past few years since these key figures have left their positions there have seen fewer events about making where we life a better place, or understanding our impact on the world. Where is our money going? towards free popcorn and hotdogs? something any of us could get at the store for a few bucks.

      if it wasn’t the Criminal Justice Club, eventually someone would have stood up and said something about this, some of you want to be immature and start name calling such as calling the protesting members childish. are you college students are 1st graders?

      Ultimately i feel it really does fall on the lap of Lee Cohen. the majority of senate originally approved it, meaning the representatives of the student body believed, on behalf of the student body, that it would be acceptable for these funds to be used for the purpose. I understand the structure of democracy in which the president can veto, but the reasoning is absolutely absurd at best. a majority was ok with it, but apparentlly it didn’t fit his agenda.

      Lastly, I admit that if the SGA approves funding for ANY fraternity event (namely Mr. Cohen’s frat) after denying a student organization seeking to go to an educational event, and this funding isn’t for the higher education of the student body, and solely for entertainment/fun purposes, I will join the picketing and peaceful protest, and would call for the impeachment (if such a thing exists within the SGA’s structure) or resignation of Mr. Cohen.

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