Thursday’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting held a heated debate over a motion regarding Shippensburg University Student Services, Inc.’s (SUSSI) spending limit.
The motion to approve an income of $1.3 million in the 2019-20 SUSSI SGA operating budget passed 16-7 with two abstentions, but not before multiple conversations occurred between current and past SGA members.
During the open-floor discussion, former SGA President Logan Wein addressed the concerns he had about the motion. Wein said a meeting took place Tuesday evening and only one SGA advisor, Darrell Miller, was present. SGA has two other advisors — Sarah Schenk and Danny Velez. Wein feared the conversation that took place during the meeting may have been one-sided because Miller is the president of the SUSSI voting board.
When Wein was SGA president, he said he had multiple conversations with SU President Laurie Carter about the budget. Not all portions of this current budget were passed because she is not ready. Wein fears Carter might not be okay with all parts of the budget.
“I just know that a lot of you are new to SGA and you guys may not be familiar with SUSSI and the way it operates and its history, and I hate to see you all to vote on something you’re unfamiliar with — especially such a large amount of money,” Wein said.
Wein noted it seemed strange that the vote on this spending limit did not come about when he was in office, but when individuals with little knowledge on the process are in office the vote had to be made.
Student Trustee Evan Redding also spoke during the open floor discussion. He said he felt he was not included in the meeting that happened on Tuesday night, and that was an irresponsible move on SGA’s part. The student trustee is to be included on the SGA ERC board until graduation, according to Redding. SGA President Aven Bittinger later apologized and acknowledged that he was the one who did not invite the other two advisors or Redding.
The motion that was being voted on encouraged a 2 percent pay increase for SUSSI employees. The SUSSI board of directors is made up of SUSSI employees, Redding said.
“Therefore, I see that there is a direct conflict of interest in the vote you’re about to hold today,” he stated. “The people who are asking for a raise are also the governing body.”
Redding did not have the chance to look at the job descriptions or responsibilities of these employees. He also did not get the chance to see performance evaluations which he said corporations typically use to determine raises.
“I strongly, strongly, strongly recommend that you begin to ask these questions and that you table the vote today and that you do not vote because I see there’s a conflict the way in which this is handled,” Redding said.
To close his remarks, he said he hopes his student trustee replacement will be included in conversations in the future, SGA continues to be transparent and the board of directors abstains from voting if the spending limit is approved because they will benefit from the raise.
Former SGA vice president Makayla Glass also addressed SGA. Her concern went back to a budget and finance meeting where the fiscal office’s budget request was discussed. This meeting worked on passing the last of the budgets, but went over the one-hour time span allotted for the budget and finance committee.
However, the largest request was saved for last when many of the few members of the committee that were present were tired of being there, Glass said. She did not understand the $300,000 increase and how it could be afforded after being generous with previous passed budgets. It passed with three yes’s and three abstentions, which Glass said is a red flag in itself.
She remembered the budget only had signed approval from the president, Miller, and the vice president and treasurer Franklin Klink, but not from Velez which means it should not have been brought to the budget and finance committee because it was incomplete.
According to Glass, SGA says they encourage opposition, but most budget and finance motions are passed based on the recommendations from the advisor for the treasurer. However, these recommendations also pertain to many personal interests such as salaries, insurance, retirement, benefits and pay increases.
Miller took time during the open floor discussion to respond to Wein, Redding and Glass. Miller has been an employee at the university for 32 years. He said even though Carter has not made a decision on the budget does not mean she is not going to pass it. The past treasurer, Raven Francis, offered to answer questions Carter may have, but got no response.
“We’re not sure what the holdup is,” Miller said. “We’re not assuming the president has a problem with it.”
Ramses Ovalles said he and Francis had two meetings with Carter about the budget.
Carter said the parts of the budget that have been approved had to do with money that go to students. She is working to keep costs that students pay to a minimum.
Miller said he wanted SGA to pass the motions so there is a spending level that will not exceed a certain amount. He explained Carter has veto power over the budget.
In response to the conflict of interest among the SUSSI board, he said the setup of members on the board is not ideal, and he has been trying to change that. He assured everyone that the payroll is reviewed with the vice president of student affairs with a compensation committee with two other people, and it is then brought forward to the board.
Before the motion was voted upon, Isaac Dietrich motioned to table the discussion, but that motion failed with a vote of 18-8.
Ovalles said tabling the budget would only move the decision to the ERC board over the summer which is unfair to the rest of the SGA members.
Bittinger commented that Thursday’s meeting showed the role of SGA on campus.
“Student Government is not just an ordinary student group, but has a direct impact on many facets at Shippensburg,” he said.
Wein and Ovalles were asked for further comment, but did not respond by publication deadline.