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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Senate, E-board at budget standstill

Published: February 15, 2008
Section: Front Page, News

Despite weeks of debate and revisions, the Student Union Senate postponed a decision over its fourth budget proposal on Sunday.

The Senate cited the lack of specific committee fund allocations in the Senate Operational Budget, as well as $2,500 allocated to Director of Campus Life Christina Khemraj ‘09 to plan a party as their main problems with the proposal.

In the end, the Senate approved of a continuing resolution, granting the Union $2,000 to continue student government business through February break.

Typically, the Senate committees, such as the committee that organizes the Midnight Buffet or the Social Justice Committee, are allocated specific amounts of money.

This time, however, the proposed budget places the monies for all five committees in a single discretionary fund, and committee heads will have to come before the Senate to access it.

“What’s really unfair is that [Treasurer Choon Woo Ha’s ’08] budget gives the Senate a big discretionary fund without delineated budgets,” said Senator-at-Large Andrew Brooks ’09.

Because of this, Brooks felt Union committees would not be working with a preplanned operational budget, and thus might be unable to organize constitutionally-required activities like the Diversity Retreat.

“[The Executive Board] took away the committee sovereignty over our funds…we have to go up, request funds, and have a Senate vote on it,” added Brooks. “To make us do that and to not make Christina Khemraj do that is a double standard.”

Ha explained that he wanted to allow the Senate greater flexibility. “So far every single budget has been delineated. This time I decided not to, because I think this is the right way to go,” he said. “My job as a treasurer is not to tell senators how to spend their money… my job is to make sure I spread the money around wisely.” According to Ha, “instead of coming to the Treasurer, they’re coming to the Senate—I don’t know what their problem is. They always complain about the E-board having too much money, they always complain about having more autonomy. Now I’m giving them the autonomy to let them do whatever they want with their budget.”

Still, other senators voiced their concerns over the proposed changes to the budget. “The fact that [these committees] don’t have guaranteed funds means the activities might not go on time…it’s just virtually impossible for committees to function if they don’t have their budgets ahead of time,” said Ziv Quad Senator Justin Sulsky ’09.

Sulsky felt the proposed system of requesting funds through Senate Money Resolution votes will cause excessive pettiness and debate amongst the Senate. “It’s unprecedented to have their funds in one lump fund…right now, it’s willy-nilly where the money will go—maybe the winter shuttles won’t get their money.”

According to Director of Campus Life and party organizer Christina Khemraj, “the goal of this social experiment is for student advocates and leaders to test out a few hypotheses regarding why social events on campus are not as successful as they have the potential to be so that we can plan smarter in the future.” She added the main goal would be to establish a “Do’s and Don’ts of Party Planning” guide for Brandeis University.

“There’s this mentality in the Union, advocating through doing,” said Brooks. “They throw parties according to the rules to show how flawed the rules are. It doesn’t work over the long run.” Referring to last year’s Union-themed party Purple Rain, “$6,700 dollars were spent and nothing’s been changed.”

Sulsky agreed, saying, “I fundamentally disagree that we need a large party in the atrium to prove a point.”

Stating he felt Union funds should go towards events such as Midnight Brunch, Winter Shuttles, and Midyear Ice Cream Socials, Sulsky added, “we’ve had concern from administrators that social life wasn’t good enough on campus, so [Vice-President of Students and Enrollment] Jean Eddy pushed the Student Events Fee from out of student hands and student oversight…I don’t see why we should throw our money into it—if the administration thinks they can do this better, why don’t we let them do it?”

“I didn’t just cut money from the Senate, I also cut money from the project support,” said Ha, stating that the Executive Board’s discretionary fund was cut in half with the last proposal. “The Senate got even more money than the first budget, they actually got more money. I just cut it from the E-board.” Regarding the party, Ha said, “if people are saying this is an event that the Student Union shouldn’t be doing, they need to look at other events. They should get rid of midnight buffet and diversity retreat, if we shouldn’t have events…just because it’s an event doesn’t mean we have to kill it.”

“I am very disappointed in the continuous E-board – Senate banter going on,” said Khemraj. “We are supposed to be working collectively towards the best interest of the entire student body instead of trying to put each other down and so I am very discouraged that certain senators would rather put down other projects to fulfill their own financial needs without taking into consideration the ambitions of their peers.”

Sulsky, however, stated, “if this party goes through, we have to have senators who devote their time to planning a party in the atrium, and that time needs to be sent advocating for their constituencies…I hope that when students see this they see it as senators standing up for them. It isn’t ‘senator versus E-board member,’ it’s just us standing up for their best interests.”