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Student Government Association: A semester in review and a look ahead

President Lee Cohen discusses past spending, student activity fees and budget concerns.

Student Government Association meeting with Chancellor Allison in attendance last semester. Provided/ Jeremy Eiler

Student Government Association meeting with Chancellor Allison in attendance last semester. Provided/ Jeremy Eiler

By: IZZA JATALA
Staff Writer

Ever wonder about the details of the Student Government Association (SGA) activities at IU South Bend?

Lee Cohen, SGA president, sat down with The Preface to talk about last semester’s SGA activities and what they’re focusing on for this semester.

Cohen said there was about $660,000 in student activity fees from the 2013-2014 fiscal year. From that amount, the SGA gets $55,000 to allocate throughout that academic year, according to an SGA budget report.

After some expenses towards things like stipends, accounting fees and technology fees, the total allocable amount was $33,275.51, as shown on the SGA Bills of Legislation Log. This and other reports are made available through their official website.

According to that report, the SGA has disbursed $18,476.51 so far this academic year, which is about 60% of the total allocable. That leaves $13,300 left to allocate for the remainder of this academic year.

Cohen pointed out that so far, they have allocated funds towards 22 on-campus events, the biggest being the “Boo to You” Halloween event put on by the Disney Club.

Though the majority of funding requests by clubs and organizations were approved, there were three that were not. All three were off-campus events.

Cohen said he stands by his stance on the issue of off-campus events.

“The intended purpose of the student activity fee itself is to create and facilitate student life on campus and in this community and area,” Cohen said.

He said two of the clubs that requested funding for their off-campus event were able to find funding elsewhere.

The SGA received some heat last semester from some members of the student body about the issue. In consideration of their concerns, Cohen said he plans to look into the issue more this semester. He talked about the student activity fee survey the SGA recently created to find out students’ opinion on the matter.

“The primary focus of the survey for me would be to find out what do students want to see done with their money,” Cohen said.

The survey they made still needs approval through the proper channels and would most likely be sent out via email if approved, Cohen said.

Cohen added that he would like to take the results of the survey to guide funding distribution, so if 70% of the student body wants on-campus events and 30% want off-campus events, he would use this scale to apply the funding but would prioritize on-campus and put a cap on off-campus events.

“Nothing is concrete yet,” he said, adding that he’s still figuring out the structure.

Cohen said he would like to see this survey made available during welcome week each semester, if approved. “New semester, new student body, what would you like done with your money?” would be the focus.

Cohen said he wants to better inform students on the student activity fee “so they can make the most informed decision possible when voicing opinions on how their money should be spent.”

Another area of focus for this semester for SGA will be related to budgetary issues for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Cohen said the amount of allocable student activity fees has been progressively declining the last few years due to low enrollment. With less money to work with, the SGA will have to cut the budget again. This is one of the biggest things they’ll work on this spring, he said.

The SGA has recently made some changes to their website, providing more content and transparency of their activities throughout the academic year.

“The meeting minutes can be commented on so students can share their perspective on what happened during the meetings,” Cohen said. “Bills of legislation are available online for the first time ever to be viewed publicly.”

Cohen said he is looking forward to another productive semester and hopes more students will get involved with the SGA, which plans on hosting a town hall sometime this semester, possibly in March.

“The focus will be on student life in general and ways to improve our campus community,” Cohen said.

He encourages students to attend and voice their opinions. He also encourages more clubs to get more active on campus in general.

“This semester I would really like to have more clubs come trying to get funding for on campus events,” Cohen said.

According to the Bills of Legislation report, only 15 clubs and organizations made funding requests for on-campus events last semester.

“It would be excellent to see more happening on campus. Especially with potentially dropping enrollment numbers it would be good to build that community back up and keep people on campus.”

To understand more about SGA and their activities in detail, students can visit www.iusb.edu/stu-gov/index.php to access their meeting minutes, bills of legislation, budgets and other reports.

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